by Damien Gayle Daily Mail
Genetically modified salmon could soon be found on supermarket fish counters after the U.S. food safety watchdog ruled it posed no environmental risks, it emerged today.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said it could find no valid scientific reasons to ban production of Atlantic salmon engineered with extra genes from two other fish species.
If it is now given final approval, the fish will be the first GM animal to hit supermarket shelves anywhere in the world – and in the U.S. they may not even be labelled as modified.
The FDA has already indicated the AquAdvantage salmon was safe for human consumption, but published a draft ruling on Friday declaring it unlikely to damage the environment.
Their two extra genes make the fish grow twice as fast as normal Atlantic salmon and supporters say it could make land-based fish farms much easier and cheaper to run.
But opponents of the ‘Frankenfish’ technology warn it could escape and interbreed with wild fish, undermining the genetics of the already-endangered Atlantic salmon – known as the ‘king of fishes’.
They also argue that commercial production of the salmon could be beginning of concerted efforts to concoct other GM animals for human consumption, raising concerns about animal welfare and human health.
There are now few hurdles remaining before the GM fish can be lawfully produced and sold in shops in the U.S., which could put pressure on the UK and Europe to follow suit.
Several government and EU bodies would have to review the technology before it could be approved in the UK, but sucessive government chief scientists have already backed GM as a concept for increasing food production.
So far, it is only consumer opposition that has blocked the approval of GM foods in the UK, although some products on supermarket shelves already contain GM ingredients and they are regularly found in animal feed.
AquAdvantage salmon are all female, possess three chromosomes instead of the usual two, and grow to market size in 16 to 18 months instead of the usual 30 required for Atlantic salmon.
AquaBounty Technologies, the company behind the fish, claim the risk of interbreeding with wild salmon is low because their fish are all sterile and grown in secure containers on land-based fish farms.
The FDA’s draft assessment, part of a New Animal Drug Application (NADA), agrees with the company, ruling that the possibility of the GM salmon escaping into rivers and the sea is ‘extremely unlikely’, The Independent reported.