‘Frankenfish’: It’s what’s for dinner

The Associated PressDecember 22, 2012 

fast growing salmon

This undated 2010 handout photo provided by AquaBounty Technologies shows two same-age salmon, a genetically modified salmon, rear, and a non-genetically modified salmon, foreground. Salmon that's genetically modified to grow twice as fast as normal could soon show up on your dinner plate aë if the company that makes the fish can stay afloat. (AP Photo/AquaBounty Technologies) NO SALES

ANONYMOUS — associated press

— Federal health regulators say a genetically modified salmon that grows twice as fast as normal is unlikely to harm the environment, clearing the way for the first approval of a scientifically engineered animal for human consumption.

The Food and Drug Administration on Friday released its environmental assessment of the AquaAdvantage salmon, a faster-growing fish that has been subject to a contentious, years-long debate at the agency.

The document concludes the fish “will not have any significant impacts on the quality of the human environment of the United States.” Regulators also said the fish is unlikely to harm populations of natural salmon, a key concern for environmental activists.

The FDA will take comments from the public on its report for 60 days before making it final.

The FDA said more than two years ago the fish appears to be safe to eat, but the agency had taken no public action since then. Executives for the company behind the fish, Maynard, Mass.-based Aquabounty, speculated the government was delaying action on their application due to push-back from groups who oppose genetically modified food animals.

Experts view the release of the environmental report as the final step before approval.

If FDA regulators clear the salmon, as expected, it would be the first scientifically altered animal approved for food anywhere in the world.

Critics call the modified salmon a “frankenfish.” They worry it could cause human allergies and the eventual decimation of the natural salmon population if it escapes and breeds in the wild.

AquaBounty has maintained the fish is safe and there are several safeguards against environmental problems. The fish would be bred female and sterile, though a very small percentage still might be able to breed.

Since its founding in 1991, Aquabounty has burned through more than $67 million developing the fast-growing fish. According to its midyear financial report, the company had less than $1.5 million in cash and stock left.

Genetically engineered animals contain DNA that has been altered to produce a desirable trait.

The AquaAdvantage salmon has an added growth hormone from the Pacific Chinook salmon that allows the fish to produce growth hormone all year long. The engineers were able to keep the hormone active by using another gene from an eel-like fish called an ocean pout that acts like an “on” switch for the hormone. Typical Atlantic salmon produce the growth hormone for only part of the year.

The State is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service