A type of salmon genetically engineered to grow faster has been deemed fit for consumption in the US, making it the first scientifically altered animal of its kind to be bound for Americans' dinner plates.
Regulators at the Food and Drug Administration gave the go-ahead on Thursday to a breed of transgenic salmon, saying it was just as nutritious as its nonmodified cousins and could be safely eaten in the US.
The fish in question - deemed "frankenfish" by opponents of genetic engineering and "AquAdvantage Salmon" by its breeders - is an Atlantic salmon that has had its genes crossed with Pacific Chinook salmon to make it grow nearly twice as fast.
Compared to normal Atlantic salmon, the new vertebrate only needs 16 to 18 months to reach adult size, rather than 30.
Vendors will not be required to label any of the genetically modified fish as such due to a law that requires additional labeling only if there is a "material difference - such as a different nutritional profile" between GE and non-GE food.
An upstream battle
FDA reviewers had already determined five years ago that this was not the case, but the Obama administration hesitated to give its official blessing to the controversial fish amidconcerns by consumers
that eating scientifically altered fish could be unsafe.
The unusually long amount of time it took for the farm-raised fish to go from preliminary to final approval highlighted the level of enmity in the debate over GE food.
The FDA noted that its approval did not mean that AquAdvantage Salmon was permitted to be cultivated in the US. It can only be raised in two land-based hatcheries in Canada and Panama.
The tight restrictions are largely due to fears that if any farm-raised fish were to escape into the wild, it could be detrimental for other salmon.
But the company behind AquAdvantage Salmon, AquaBounty, has noted that its fish are sterile and unable to reproduce, thus eliminating any danger of them interbreeding.
cjc/hg (AFP, AP)