The FDA Just Approved Genetically Modified Salmon, But Will Anyone Eat It?

Written by Emi Boscamp

The friendly Atlantic salmon we once knew is now growing at the rate of Popeye's biceps after chugging a can of spinach.

Okay, that might be an exaggeration, but Massachusetts-based AquaBounty Technologies has developed an Atlantic salmon that grows faster than wild or farmed versions of the fish by incorporating a gene from the Chinook salmon — and it's officially been approved for consumption by the FDA.

Why would they do such a thing? Well, the company says its salmon is a more efficient way to meet growing demand for farmed fish and reduce pressure on wild fisheries.

GMO corn, soybean and cotton seeds, altered to make the plants resistant to bugs and herbicides, have been commonplace on farms for nearly two decades now, but the overwhelming majority of it is used as animal feed — not for direct human consumption. This year, however, the FDA approved GMO apples and potatoes, but they haven't really taken off, as many food brands have vowed not to carry them.

Similar is the case with this new breed of salmon, according to The New York Times. Some supermarket chains have pledged not to sell it.

But, in a press release, Ronald L. Stotish, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer of AquaBounty, argues that the "AquAdvantage" salmon is a way to bring "healthy and nutritious food to consumers in an environmentally responsible manner without damaging the ocean and other marine habitats."

But even if the fish does make it to supermarket shelves, it's expected to take the company some time — perhaps years — to raise enough of it.

AquaBounty has also agreed to produce only sterile and female fish in land-based fish farms to curb the risk of any escapes into the wild, a major concern of consumer and environmental groups. That way, the company said, it'll be less stressful on the environment and could eventually allow the fish to be raised in the U.S. rather than being imported, as most farmed Atlantic salmon is.

"Using land-based aquaculture systems, this rich source of protein and other nutrients can be farmed close to major consumer markets in a more sustainable manner," said Stotish.

So, while the FDA has ruled that the fish is safe to eat, it's a lot more complicated than just that.

What do you think? Would you buy genetically engineered salmon?

(h/t NYT)

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