Genetically modified salmon are designed to grow faster, and federal regulators have declared that these fish are safe to be consumed. Salmon is now the very first genetically altered animal approved for sale in any American supermarkets and declared dinner table ready.
The announcement came on Thursday, and the approval from the Food and Drug Administration also gave companies who will begin the sale of the salmon the option of voluntarily labelling that the product is genetically modified, or GM, but they actually will not be required to do so.
AquaBounty Technologies was the very first company to approach the FDA about the approval of genetically engineered salmon for consumption back in the 1990s, and this declaration means an astounding victory for them. The company declared their modified salmon fit almost five years ago. Bernadette Dunham, the director of the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, assures the public that the engineered salmon was thoroughly tested.
“The FDA has thoroughly analyzed and evaluated the data and information submitted by AquaBounty Technologies regarding AquAdvantage Salmon and determined that they have met the regulatory requirements for approval, including that food from the fish is safe to eat.”
There are, of course, many who oppose the FDA’s decision. Consumer groups have long argued that GM products should be labelled as such, and the fact that the companies will not be forced to label their modified salmon as such once it hits the markets is sure to cause anger. Environmental groups, on the other hand, have argued that the safety studies undertaken were inadequate and fear how wild salmon populations would be affected if any engineered fish were to escape and possibly breed with those living free in oceans and rivers.
Opposers of the idea that GM salmon are safe will not be simply taking the FDA’s word regarding testing and approval, nor are they inclined to accept the decision overall. According to the New York Times, just hours after the announcement that the FDA approves of genetically engineered salmon, consumer advocacy group Center for Food Safety, among others, stated that a lawsuit challenging the approval would be filed. The executive director of Food & Water Watch, Wenonah Hauter, also issued a statement against the decision.
“This unfortunate, historic decision disregards the vast majority of consumers, many independent scientists, numerous members of Congress and salmon growers around the world, who have voiced strong opposition.”
Proponents of the idea of GM salmon are stating that there are scientific studies that mark the salmon as safe, but many are still actively against the idea. In fact, they have stated that the environment may actually benefit from the sale and consumption of genetically modified salmon. A Purdue University professor of genetics and aquaculture, Dr. William Muir, has stated that GM salmon is a wonderful alternative to wild salmon.
“The scientific review is clear. There is no credible evidence that these fish are a risk to either human health or the environment. In contrast, the current practice of using wild-caught salmon as a food source is not sustainable, our oceans are overfished.”
The genetically engineered salmon of AquaBounty in Massachusetts were modified using two genes from two different species of fish to make it grow faster. As for those worried about GM salmon escaping, the FDA intends to inspect all their facilities to ensure that this is not possible.
NBC News stated that the FDA’s approval of the engineered salmon means that the engineered fish will join the genetically modified corn, soybeans, and potatoes that have already been long approved for consumption in the United States.
AquaBounty stated that it will be at least two years before the genetically engineered salmon would be available on the market, as it takes about that long for even the modified salmon to become market size.
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