Coming to a fish market near you: genetically modified salmon.
AquaBounty Technologies, a Massachusetts-based company, has passed five of seven steps set by the Food and Drug Administration in the company's decade-long attempt to bring salmon that can grow at twice the normal rate to the U.S. market.
According to the New York Times, AquaBounty’s salmon “contains a growth hormone gene from a Chinook salmon as well as a genetic on-switch from the ocean pout, a distant relative of the salmon.”
AquaBounty would sell fish eggs to fish farms. The fish would be bred sterile to prevent them from infiltrating the wild and breeding with native salmon, reports The Daily Mirror.
Expectedly, the environmental and consumer protection communities are up in arms.
Peter Melchet, policy director of the Soil Association, told the Daily Mirror, "Once you have bombarded an animal with other genes, the DNA is unstable, and there is no guarantee these fish will remain sterile."
AquaBounty’s Chief Executive Office, Ronald L. Stotish disagrees.
He told the New York Times that AquaBounty’s inserted gene did not change through multiple generations and that the genetic engineering did not harm the animals.
Moreover, Stotish claims that AquaBounty’s salmon is “indistinguishable from non-engineered Atlantic salmon in terms of taste, color, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, proteins, and other nutrients.”
What’s yet to be decided is how the American consumer will take to genetically modified animals.
According to the Times:
Some public opinion surveys have shown that Americans are more wary about genetically engineered animals than about the genetically engineered crops now used in a huge number of foods. But other polls suggest that many Americans would accept the animals if they offered environmental or nutritional benefits.
The FDA is not expected to render a verdict for a few more months.
Even if they approve AquaBounty’s salmon, it could take up to three additional years before the fish reach your supermarket’s frozen food aisle.