If you genetically alter fish, are they safe to eat?
The FDA is ready to issue an opinion as to whether fish genetically modified to grow faster pose health rinks. Aqua Bounty Technologies, Inc. boasts a genetically altered salmon that grows twice as fast as Atlantic salmon. Aqua says that the manipulated fish can reduce pressure on the environment and boost the US fish market. If the fish are approved, it could mean the first genetically altered animal food that consumers' see for sale. Consumers would later likely see genetically altered trout and tilapia. Scientists are also working on altering pigs and cows.
Of course not everyone thinks that genetically altered fish are a good idea. Consumer advocates and food safety experts are concerned about potential side effects, which they say are unknown. They point to the fact that there is little data to prove that the fish are safe, Reuters reports.
"This is an Atlantic salmon in every measurable way ... When you look at the fish, it's impossible to see the difference," said Aqua Bounty Chief Executive Ronald Stotish.
Jaydee Hanson, policy analyst for the Center for Food Safety, countered Stotish by saying, "They're basically putting the fish on permanent growth hormone so it grows faster ... so they can sell bigger fish faster."
So the big question for consumers is, what does the data say regarding the safety? Unfortunately, the FDA has not released any data and does not have to release any until two days prior to the meeting, Reuters reports. Aqua has not done any animal or human clinical trials, thought it has conducted several taste tests, with positive results.
So in the end, it is hard for consumers to determine whether this is something they want. Some fear that tinkering with genes could usher in the Apocalypse, although fortunately that did not happen when scientists genetically altered plants. The decision whether to bring the food to store now rests with the FDA. If approved, consumers will be left to vote with their wallets.