SCIENCE – ‘Frankenfish’ on your dinner table soon

500x_aquadvantage-atlantic-sal-006_01Genetically modified salmon that grows at twice the rate of conventional salmon could be finding its way into the human food chain very soon after the American FDA said the salmon was unlikely to pose a threat to humans or the environment.

The AquAdvantage salmon, from US company AquaBounty, has been genetically modified to grow twice as fast as normal salmon. The fish have an extra growth hormone from Pacific Chinook salmon, and the hormone is activated with a gene taken from an ocean pout so it functions all year. Normal salmon only grow for part of the year.

In a draft environmental assessment, the FDA affirmed earlier findings that the biotech salmon was not likely to be harmful. It said it would take comments from the public on its report for 60 days before making a final decision on approval.

“With respect to food safety, FDA has concluded that food from AquAdvantage salmon is as safe as food from conventional Atlantic salmon, and that there is a reasonable certainty of no harm from consumption,” the FDA assessment states.

Critics say the new salmon is a “dangerous experiment” and have pressured the FDA to reject it. They say the FDA has relied on out-dated science and substandard methods for assessing the new fish.

“We are deeply concerned that the potential of these fish to cause allergic reactions has not been adequately researched,” said Michael Hansen, a scientist at the Consumers Union. “FDA has allowed this fish to move forward based on tests of allergenicity of only six engineered fish, tests that actually did show an increase in allergy-causing potential.”

There were also concerns the FDA would not require the genetically modified salmon to be labelled as such, and some critics said they may file a lawsuit to prevent what they fear could be the imminent approval of the engineered fish.

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