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Genetically Altered Salmon Moving Closer To Market

US - The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is seriously considering whether to approve the first genetically engineered animal that people would eat: salmon that can grow at twice the normal rate.

The developer of the salmon has been trying to get approval for a decade, but the company now seems to have submitted most or all of the data the FDA needs to analyse whether the salmon are safe to eat, nutritionally equivalent to other salmon and safe for the environment, according to government and biotechnology industry officials.

A public meeting to discuss the salmon may be held as early as this fall.

According to The New York Times, some consumer and environmental groups are likely to raise objections to approval. Even within the FDA, there has been a debate about whether the salmon should be labelled as genetically engineered (genetically engineered crops are not labelled).

The salmon was developed by the company 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” he said, adding that the benefit of the fast-growing salmon would be to help supply the world’s food needs using fewer resources.

AquaBounty told The New York Times last week, that the FDA had signed off on five of the seven sets of data required to demonstrate that the fish was safe for consumption and for the environment. It said it demonstrated, for instance, that the inserted gene did not change through multiple generations and that the genetic engineering did not harm the animals.

“Perhaps in the next few months, we expect to see a final approval,” Mr Stotish said.

However, he said it would take two or three years after approval for the salmon to reach supermarkets.

the Fish Site Editor

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