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Genetically Engineered Salmon: FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions on Genetically Engineered Salmon as the FDA Weighs Approval
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Are Genetically Engineered Salmon Safe to Eat? continued...

As long as the genetically engineered fish are raised in a healthy manner, their speed of growth does not appear to be a problem in and of itself.

But safety data analyzed by the FDA looked only at AquAdvantage salmon grown at a Canada facility. Critics say there is no data from the Panama facility at which the firm intends to produce most of its fish.

Different questions are whether the insertion of the DNA switch causes a safety problem -- and whether the extra growth hormone in the genetically engineered fish will cause problems.

The FDA analysis suggests that the DNA switch itself doesn't make the fish unsafe. And it concludes that the level of growth hormone in the altered fish is not especially worrisome.

Critics say more study is needed to see whether other salmon proteins are affected by the altered switch. But their main concern is over whether the increased growth hormones make the fish more likely to trigger allergies.

People allergic to fish generally avoid salmon anyway. But some critics say that if the genetically engineered salmon is more allergenic than other fish, it might provoke fish allergies in people who were not already allergic to fish.

In comments to the FDA panel, Consumer Union senior scientist Michael Hansen, PhD, was highly critical of the FDA's analysis of the allergy question.

"Because the FDA's assessment is inadequate, we are particularly concerned this salmon may pose an increased risk of severe, even life-threatening allergic reactions to sensitive individuals," Hansen said.

One of the outside experts on the FDA panel advising the FDA, Craig Altier, PhD, DVM, of Cornell University, says he's not worried about the allergy issue.

"Exhaustive analysis by the FDA showed no difference from conventional salmon," Altier noted in a news release. "The growth hormone itself presents no specific risk, as we consume growth hormone in all the meats we eat."

Is Genetically Engineered Salmon Safe for the Environment?

The theoretical problem with genetically engineered salmon is that some of them might escape and breed with wild salmon, polluting the wild salmon gene pool and threatening the species. There's also a threat that the fast-growing fish might become an invasive species, pushing native species out of their environmental niche.

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