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New On the Menu: Genetically Modified Salmon?
Date:9/13/2010

umer environmental and fisheries groups, including the Sierra Club, which issued a statement citing concerns that the fish could escape and pose an environmental threat. Previously, another group of consumer advocates and others warned that "transgenic fish" could introduce new or unknown allergens into the food supply.

AquaBounty creates its salmon by taking a growth gene from the Chinook salmon and a gene "promoter" from the ocean pout, another type of fish, said John Buchanan, AquaBounty's director of research and development. The pout gene promoter simply turns on the Chinook salmon growth gene, and is not actually expressed [active] in the modified fish. The resulting salmon grow to market weight about twice as fast as ordinary Atlantic salmon, though they don't get larger overall.

While it typically takes about three years for salmon to grow to market weight, AquaBounty's salmon get there in about 18 months, Buchanan said.

To safeguard the environment, Buchanan said the eggs will be treated so that all fish that grow from them will be sterile females. That means they will not be able to reproduce, nor will they come into contact with males to reproduce with, said Buchanan, whose firm would sell the treated eggs.

While farm-raised salmon is typically grown in ocean-based tanks, the genetically modified fish will be grown in land-based tanks, also minimizing the chances of escape, he said.

"We have done a tremendous amount of work geared toward regulatory approval to show that the fish is healthy and safe," Buchanan said.

Genetically modified animals have been produced since the 1970s, according to background information in the FDA's briefing materials, but none have been approved for human consumption.

Currently, genetically modified soybeans and corn are being sold for people to eat.

AquaBounty said bringing the salmon to market would take at least 18 months after approval. Farmers that want to grow the fish will
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