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FDA Advisers Weigh Approval of Genetically Modified Salmon
Date:9/20/2010

By Jenifer Goodwin
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Sept. 20 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisers begin two days of hearings Monday on whether to recommend approval of genetically modified salmon for humans to eat.

If the advisers recommend approval, it would mark the first time a genetically modified animal has been approved for America's dinner plates and restaurant menus. Currently, genetically modified soybeans and corn are being sold for people to eat.

The developer of the genetically modified salmon, Waltham, Mass.-based AquaBounty Technologies, believes that, if approved, the fish could help reduce pollution, disease and other problems associated with saltwater fish farms, as well as provide an alternative source of seafood to help reduce the impact of overfishing.

But opponents of approval, including many consumer advocates, worry that the fish would pose a threat to both the health of consumers and the environment.

While the FDA isn't compelled to follow the recommendations of its advisory panels, it usually does so.

On Sept. 3, a scientific panel of experts that advises the FDA paved the way for the approval of the genetically modified salmon, calling it "as safe as food from conventional Atlantic salmon."

The FDA's Veterinary Medicine Advisory Committee went on to say that the fish -- AquAdvantage Salmon developed by AquaBounty Technologies -- contained the same amount of nutrients and had "no biologically relevant differences" from ordinary farmed Atlantic salmon.

That's what worries consumer advocates, who say approving the salmon is opening the door to all sorts of genetically engineered animals, such as pigs and other mammals.

The FDA is regulating genetically engineered animals as it would a new veterinary drug, which means that much of the research and information about the product is being kept confidential, said Wenonah Hauter, executive direct
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