Genetically engineered fish, anyone?

August 31, 2010

Would you eat a genetically modified fish? What about pork from a pig with mouse genes? Beef from cattle with genes spliced to resist “mad cow” disease?

CHILE-SALMON/CRISISThese are questions Americans may soon have to answer for themselves if the U.S. health regulators allow the sale of a genetically engineered salmon. The company that makes it, Aqua Bounty Technologies Inc <ABTX.L>, expects an agency decision by year’s end.

The biotech says its Atlantic salmon grows nearly twice as fast as normal salmon and could help Americans get more locally farmed fish. That could cut down on U.S. imports of roughly $1.4 billion a year in Atlantic salmon from other countries such as Chile while also easing pressure on wild Atlantic salmon in the nation’s Northeast.

But environmentalists and consumer advocates are concerned about what could happen if such altered fish were to escape or be released in rivers or off-shore salmon farms. They also worry about the health effects of eating such modified fish.

The Food and Drug Administration takes up the issue starting Sept. 19 as part of a three-day public hearing on whether to allow the genetically altered salmon on the U.S. market.

For more on the salmon situation, click here. For other genetically engineered food animals that aren’t far behind, click here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Victor Ruiz Caballero (Workers process farmed salmon at a plant in Chile. The fish shown in the photo are not genetically modified.)

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