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FDA close to declaring genetically altered salmon safe

September 7, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
The FDA is close to approving genetically altered salmon, saying it poses no threat to the ecosystem or to humanity. It is an announcement that has environmental groups and consumer advocates in a bit of panic.

There is a good chance the salmon will be the first genetically altered animal to enter the human food supply. The FDA concluded it should be fine for people to eat, but that's not good enough for critics of genetically modified food.

The developer of AquaBounty Technologies says genetically engineered salmon can grow almost twice as fast as regular farmed Atlantic salmon, but there is growing disgust among biologists, fisherman, and chefs.

A variety of interest groups are coming out against genetically modified salmon, but consumers are open to it.

"If it wasn't toxic, I'd be willing to try it," says Calistoga resident Donn Ledwick.

The buyers are driving the need to create more fish at a faster rate.

"I would try it just to see what it tastes like. If you don't try it, you never know. So yeah, I'll give it a go," says England resident Cathy Hollett.

Chef Ryan Simas at San Francisco's Farallon Restaurant knows all about the popularity of salmon. It's the restaurant's biggest seller and in the off season people constantly ask for it.

"But to use something that has been genetically altered just so that I can put it on my menu to make someone happy, no way," says Simas.

Salmon are so revered here in the Bay Area, it's actually salmon month at San Francisco's Aquarium by the Bay. The biologist there is very worried about what these genetically altered fish could do to the ecosystem.

"The genes from these Franken-fish could be introduced into the wild because salmon can reproduce with other species of salmon," says conservation biologist Jon Rosenfield.

The company insists the fish will never mix with the wild saying they will only be produced inland and only sterile females will be sold. Yet, critics don't trust that promise.

"This is designed to generate a lot of money for one company and could put fisherman up and down the coast in jeopardy of losing their livelihood," says Rosenfield.

AquaBounty Technologies has been trying to win FDA approval for years and is now getting very close.

The FDA will hold public hearings on the issue and the FDA's conclusion is due in a couple of weeks.


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