FDA Begins "Frankensalmon" Hearings on Genetically Engineered Fish

Sep 20, 2010
Exec. Prod. of Franchises & Series. He previously reported for HuffPost, L.A. Daily Journal, and Biloxi Sun-Herald.

Critics call it "Frankensalmon," a genetically engineered creature that they say has no business on American dinner plates. But if a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panel meeting this week gives its approval, that's exactly where the modified salmon could be headed.

AquaBounty Technologies, based in Massachussets, says that its AquAdvantage Salmon is perfectly safe for people to eat.

The AquAdvantage Salmon compared to conventional salmon. (Photo: Creative Commons).

AquaBounty argues that in an era when the world's oceans simply cannot satisfy our ever-increasing appetite for seafood, the AquAdvantage Salmon can relieve the pressure on fish stocks.

They also say thier fish could help reduce pollution and disease associated with fish farms.

Critics fear that genetically modified fish are the first step in the creation of an industry selling animal meat that isn't created by nature. They are also wary of what may happen if genetically modified animals escape into the wild. 

A preliminary report from the FDA in early September found that the modified salmon was "as safe as food from conventional Atlantic salmon."

If the FDA gives its thumbs up, shoppers will find it hard to distinguish between filets produced conventionally or via genetic engineering. If the FDA determines that the modified fish are not "materially" different from other salmon, federal regulations won't require a label.

Consumer advocates are up in arms over the prospect of label-free genetically engineered fish on store shelves, with Marion Nestle, a professor in the Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health Department at New York University telling the Washington Post that "the public wants to know and the public has a right to know. I think the agency has discretion, but it's under enormous political pressure to approve [the salmon] without labeling."

The FDA opened two days of hearings on Monday, and is expected to make a decision on the salmon by the end of the month.

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