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Environment & Science

‘Frankenfish’ gets FDA approval, puts consumer and environmental groups at odds




Fresh wild and  farmed Loch Duart salmon filets are seen on a tray at the San Francisco Fish Company April 11, 2008 in San Francisco, California.
Fresh wild and farmed Loch Duart salmon filets are seen on a tray at the San Francisco Fish Company April 11, 2008 in San Francisco, California.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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Ending a battle for approval that lasted for two decades, the FDA has approved a genetically-modified type of salmon for sale on store shelves, making it the first time the agency has approved a genetically-modified animal for sale to consumers.

What’s so special about this kind of salmon, you ask? It grows twice as fast as its non-genetically modified counterpart.

25 years ago, a Massachusetts-based lab called AquaBounty created a new gene to inject into fertilized salmon eggs, which speeds up their growth rate and means less time from egg to dinner plate. They’ve been trying ever since to get government approval for the gene.

The FDA says science and a comprehensive review informed their decision and that the fish is as safe and nutritious to eat as regular salmon. It will require the fish to be raised in contained, land-based tanks in Panama and Canada that will be inspected regularly.

Consumer and environmental groups have spoken out against the FDA’s decision, and some have even said they plan to sue the FDA to block its approval of the salmon.

Concerns are that approval of one GMO animal for sale could open the door for approvals of other GMO products. Others worry about the environmental impact that would occur if the GMO salmon were to escape into ocean waters and mated with wild Atlantic salmon.

Guests:

Gregory Jaffe, biotechnology project director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest

Michael Hansen, senior scientist with Consumers Union