The Rise of Frankensalmon: FDA Considers Approving Genetically Modified Salmon

Posted on July 5, 2010

The New York Times reports that the Food and Drug Administration is considering approving the sale of genetically modified salmon for sale to Americans to eat. The salmon will grow twice as big as regular salmon because they have been genetically engineered to produce a growth hormone year round, instead of just in the summer.

The scientists have taken genes from other fish to make this happen. The salmon might not even be labeled as "genetically engineered," so you won't know if you're eating regular salmon or Frankensalmon. The New York Times reports:

The salmon was developed by a company called AquaBounty Technologies and would be raised in fish farms. It is an Atlantic salmon that contains a growth hormone gene from a Chinook salmon as well as a genetic on-switch from the ocean pout, a distant relative of the salmon.

Normally, salmon do not make growth hormone in cold weather. But the pout's on-switch keeps production of the hormone going year round. The result is salmon that can grow to market size in 16 to 18 months instead of three years, though the company says the modified salmon will not end up any bigger than a conventional fish.

"You don't get salmon the size of the Hindenburg," said Ronald L. Stotish, the chief executive of AquaBounty. "You can get to those target weights in a shorter time."

Salmon the size of the Hindenberg? That would make an awesome follow up to the Syfy's classicMansquito. Apparently Mr. Stotish did not consult with his PR firm before chatting with a reporter from the Times.

AquaBounty has been getting a big "no way -- not happening" from the FDA for ten years, but now things are different. The approval process is moving forward. Hearings will be held starting this fall. Environmental and consumer groups are already mobilizing, but there is big money in genetically modified foods, and a number of companies are getting behind the engineered food trend.

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