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Genetically modified fish cleared safe for human consumption

Proponents of the new GM fish argue that since the species grows faster it will help feed more people. They claim that the product tastes the same as wild salmon.

In what could pave the way for what critics are calling 'Frankenfood,' the genetically-modified (GM) salmon has cleared a major hurdle in its slow migration toward the American dinner table. The scientists say that the salmon is safe to be farmed and can be eaten.

Though the Food and Drug administration (FDA) has declared the fish healthy, this is just the beginning of the approval process.

The genetically modified fish still has a long distance to cover before a final decision is taken. It may be just a couple of years before we start seeing the GM salmon in the grocery store.

The transgenic species of fish
The scientists of the Boston-based company, Aquabounty Technologies, have created a transgenic, or “mutant” species of fish.

The salmon is developed, combining favorable genes (DNA)from the Pacific salmon and the anti-freeze genes of an eelpout fish, thereby creating a new species that will grow at twice the normal rate.

They inserted two genes, one linked to growth and the second to ensure that the fish continues to flourish even in very cold temperatures.

The technique employed results in a creature that requires 25 per cent less food and reaches market weight in 15 to 18 months, rather than the usual three years.

In this way the fish farmers can produce more salmon at a lower cost, which will enhance both their output and profits.

Aquabounty Technologies has said that they will be engineering only sterile female fish and selling to producers raising them inland to help protect wild fish populations but environmentalists claim that up to five percent might be able to conceive and breed if they escaped into the wild.

The proponents' argument
Proponents of the new GM fish argue that since the species grows faster it will help feed more people. They also claim that the product tastes the same as wild salmon.

Regarding its impact on health, the scientists on the Veterinary Medicines Advisory Committee said there are no significant differences' between GM and conventional salmon.

The GM salmon too will contain the vital omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids needed for nutrition.

They stated, “Food from AquAdvantage Salmon is as safe to eat as food from other Atlantic salmon.' And they added 'there is a reasonable certainty of no harm from consumption.”

GM fish criticized by advocacy groups
Opposition to GM salmon comes from fishing unions, environmental organizations, animal rights and consumer groups.

They believe the risks outweigh the potential benefits of food production and feel the salmon poses a threat to health and biodiversity.

Their major concern is what would happen if the modified salmon were to become part of the wild salmon population.

Aquabounty Technologies has said that they will be engineering only sterile female fish and selling to producers raising them inland to help protect wild fish populations but environmentalists claim that up to five percent might be able to conceive and breed if they escaped into the wild.

Also higher levels of the growth hormone in the blood stream of the fish may prove to be dangerous for humans.

Food and Water Watch fish program director Marianne Cufone says, “We believe any approval of GM salmon would represent a serious threat to the survival of native salmon populations, many of which have already suffered severe declines related to salmon farms and other man-made impacts.”