Salmon Is The First Genetically Modified Animal Approved For Consumption By The FDA

Salmon swim just below the surface in their pens at Pan Fish USA, a salmon fish farm on Bainbridge, WA, on January 13, 2004.
Ron Wurzer / Getty Images

On Friday, USA Today reported that salmon is the first genetically modified animal to be approved for consumption by the U.S. Food And Drug Administration. The salmon produced by company AquaBounty — based in Maynard, Massachusetts — have been approved for human consumption.

The salmon are genetically modified to grow twice as fast as normal and although they have yet to be sold to restaurants within the country, the company hopes to start selling them shortly, beginning with small diners and university cafeterias.

Due to the salmon being the first genetically engineered animal to be approve for human consumption, the FDA had to come up with new regulations to determine how consumers are told about the nature of the food they purchase. A new regulation will require companies like AquaBounty to provide full disclosure when selling bio-engineered foods.

Genetically modified organisms have received outcry from public groups protesting their existence. While more companies attempt to transform the plants and animals we eat to emphasize desirable characteristics and reduce or delete undesirable characteristics, advocacy groups call for more caution and restrictions.

In the case of AquaBounty’s fish, Atlantic salmon are injected with DNA from other fish species to allow them to grow to full size in 18 months, which is about twice as fast as regular salmon. The idea behind speeding up their growth is to expend less money on feed, making salmon husbandry more efficient.

It has taken the company years to navigate government regulations and receive approval for selling their bio-engineered fish. Various food stores have already taken a stance on whether or not they will sell the genetically modified salmon, with Kroger and Whole Foods already pledging to not sell it.

The approval for the first genetically modified animal’s consumption comes on the heels of President Donald Trump signing an executive order earlier this month to simplify regulations for genetically engineered plants and animals. This order is beneficial to companies using newer gene-editing technologies that facilitate the modification of plant and animal DNA.

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The newer gene-editing techniques may not be subject to the same regulations as older technologies as the plants and animals modified using these technologies would still technically be produced by conventional breeding methods.

In regards to AquaBounty’s view on disclosing that their fish are genetically modified to consumers, they leave that up to restaurants and other middle men.

Sylvia Wulf, AquaBounty’s CEO, says, “It’s their customer, not ours.”