Franken-salmon will open genetic floodgates

02 Jul

Here’s some news that is bound to freak some people out: food authorities in the United States are on the verge of approving genetically engineered animals for consumption.

Our friend, the humble salmon, is likely to get Food and Drug Administration approval in the next few months, according to the New York Times. The company behind the fish, AquaBounty Technologies, expects the fish will be in stores in the next two to three years.

AquaBounty has taken a regular Atlantic salmon and inserted into it a gene from the Chinook salmon and one from the ocean pout, a distant relative of the salmon. Regular salmon do not produce growth hormone during cold weather, the Times reports, but the genetically engineered version – known as the AquAdvantage Fish – can develop year-round.

The benefit of being able to grow all year is that the salmon only takes 16 to 18 months to get to an eatable size, whereas a normal fish takes about three years. AquaBounty, which plans to grow the Franken-salmon in fish farms, says they won’t be any bigger, but they will be ready much faster, which will help meet rising food demand.

The interesting twist, according to the article, is how the FDA examines applications for genetically modified foods. As of 2008, such organisms are classified as drugs, which means the data submitted by applicants doesn’t have to be shared publicly. The Union of Concerned Scientists is understandably concerned because there’s been no peer review of AquaBounty’s info, which means there’s no way to tell if the science is sound or not.

If the salmon gets approved – and there will apparently be a public meeting as early as this fall to discuss the issue – it will likely open the floodgates to new genetically modified animals. As the Times article notes, scientists at the University of Guelph here in Canada have already developed the “Enviropig,” or a line of Yorkshire pigs that produce less phosphorous pollution in their poo. The result is bacon and pork that tastes the same, yet is actually better for the environment.

I’ll do some digging over the weekend and see if I can’t come up with a list of bio-engineered animals that are nearly ready to go, and post that – as well as some thoughts about genetically modified animals – next week. In the meantime, fire up the barbecue and enjoy your genetically pure (although chemically polluted) animal products while you can!

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Posted by on July 2, 2010 in food, GMO


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