‘Frankenfish’: Gene-Altered Fish Moves Closer to Federal Approval

Government regulators moved forward to allowing the first genetically engineered animal to enter the nation’s food supply.

Federal health regulators are sure that a scientifically engineered animal won’t harm the environment, clearing the way for the first approval of a genetically modified salmon for human consumption. Photo: cobalt123/Flickr

The Food and Drug Administration officially assessed the AquaAdvantage salmon, a genetically modified fish that grows twice as fast as normalm which has been subject to a yearslong debate at the agency.

The assessment concludes that the fish, which was named by critics as ‘frankenfich’, “will not have any significant impacts on the quality of the human environment of the United States.”

According to regulators, the fish is unlikely to harm populations of natural spieces, a key concern for environmental activists.

The environmental assessment was released on May, 4 and it’s still unclear why it took until now for it to be released.

Meanwhile, supporters of the genetically modified fish suggested that it was because the Obama administration fears considering an unfavorable consumer reaction before the election in November.

Environmental and consumer groups quickly criticized the federal agency’s conclusions, writes The New York Times.

“The G.E. salmon has no socially redeeming value,” Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety, a Washington advocacy group opposed to farm biotechnology, said in a statement.

“It’s bad for the consumer, bad for the salmon industry and bad for the environment. F.D.A.’s decision is premature and misguided.”

However, the decision was long in coming. AquaBounty Technologies, the company that created the fast growing salmon, has been trying to win approval for more than a decade.

“We’re encouraged by this,” Ronald Stotish, the chief executive of AquaBounty, said on Friday. However, he added, “We’re not so foolish as to be wildly enthusiastic” that Friday’s assessment will definitely lead to approval.

During eleven year of its existence, Aquabounty has spent  more than $67 million developing the fast-growing fish.

According to its midyear financial report, the fiem had less than $1.5 million in cash and stock left. It has no other products in development.

Genetically engineered animals are not clones, which the Food and Drug Administration has already announced are safe to eat. Clones are copies of an animal.

“It is still unclear whether the public will have an appetite for the fish if it is approved. Genetic engineering is already widely used for crops, but the government until now has not considered allowing the consumption of modified animals,” Newser writes.

“Although the potential benefits are huge, many people have qualms about manipulating the genetic code of other living creatures,” the news blog adds.

According to recent reports, the GE would not be labeled as genetically modified if the FDA decides it has the same material makeup as conventional salmon.

AquaBounty claims that artificial salmon possesses the same flavor, texture, color and odor as the conventional fish, and the agency so far has not shown any signs of disagreeing.

Wenonah Hauter, director of the advocacy group Food and Water Watch, urged Congress to block the approval of the product, stating that the genetically modified fish “is simply bad for business, as many will avoid purchasing any salmon for fear it is genetically engineered.”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said Friday she is working to convince fellow senators that approval for the fish should be stopped.

“This is especially troubling as the agency is ignoring the opposition by salmon and fishing groups, as well as more than 300 environmental, consumer and health organizations,” she said.

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