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Genetically Modified Salmon?

Have you heard about all of the excitement at the FDA last week where they held hearings on allowing a genetically modified (GM) fish to be sold for human consumption?

AquaBounty Technologies, a Massachusetts-based company, first applied for approval of their GM Atlantic salmon back in 1995, but it wasn’t until 2008 that the FDA decided it would even consider approval for genetically engineered animals. Some folks are up in arms because the presentation of scientific information and deliberations on the subject took place in secrecy. (See more from The Washington Post).

Others are concerned over apparent conclusions found in the FDA briefing packet released before last week’s hearings. It appears as if the FDA is poised to rule that there is no significant biological difference between the AquaAdvantage salmon and Atlantic salmon. And further, critics fear that the FDA is of the opinion that AquaBounty’s process for engineering the fish (adding a growth hormone from Chinook salmon to accelerate growth and adding genetic material from the pout—an eel-like fish—so the AquaAdvantage salmon will continue to grow in cold waters) is safe for the fish, safe for human consumption, and safe for the environment. (See the full FDA Briefing Packet). Pictured: An AquaAdvantage salmon is shown behind a natural Atlantic salmon of the same age.

Other concerns include: increased allergens; danger to wild fish populations; and whether data derived from American-farmed fish is statistically accurate for approval to raise the fish in Panama. (AquaBounty has applied for approval to sell fish they raise in Panama.) And probably most controversial of all, there are heated debates about whether or not to require that the fish be labeled as genetically altered at the point of sale. This is exciting stuff for folks on both sides of the issue because it’s potentially a ground-breaking decision. If approved, this will be the first time our government has allowed any genetically altered animal to be sold for human consumption.

Learn more at NPR.org and stay tuned. Or join the conversation. You can start by letting me know your opinion on the subject.

Photos: NPR.org