Hey, America: Time to get excited! Why? Because a year and a half from now you could be eating the very first genetically-modified animal approved for public consumption: The AquAdvantage® salmon! Assuming it passes the approval process, which began Wednesday.
Can you feel your mouth watering yet? Can't you just taste the genetic modifications? The AquAdvantage® salmon grows twice as fast as regular (boring) salmon, thanks to a neat bit of DNA from an "eel-like creature" called the ocean pout that's been grafted onto a chinook salmon's growth hormone gene. (The gene is then injected into the eggs of North Atlantic salmon, where it is taken up into the genome.) The company claims that the faster-growing fish will speed up salmon farming and increase production, and also make them a boatload of money. Well, they don't claim that last bit. But they're totally thinking it!
The first stage in the Food and Drug Administration's approval process is a 60-day "period of consultation and public meetings," where the FDA will deliberate on such questions as "whether, if the fish is approved for consumption, it must be labelled as genetically engineered." (Let me help you with that one, FDA: Yes, it should be labeled, with a big sign, that says "WARNING: THIS FISH SUGGESTIVE OF OUR INCREASINGLY PROBLEMATIC RELATIONSHIP WITH NATURE AND WHAT HEIDEGGER MIGHT CALL THE 'SUPREME DANGER' OF TECHNOLOGY, ALSO, CONTAINS EEL-LIKE BITS, IN THE DNA.") According to The Guardian, "the approval process could take less than a year, and if it gets the green light the fish could be on the market in 18 months."
Luckily, the company seems like it's really on the up-and-up:
The explanation of the genetic modification on the company's publicity literature, aimed at reassuring the public, makes no mention of the ocean pout gene. "The chinook growth hormone is the same as the Atlantic salmon growth hormone; it is simply regulated differently. Their ability to grow faster does not change the biological make-up of the fish," the company says.
That appears to contradict the explanation of the technology from AquaBounty's chief scientific officer, Dr John Buchanan, who said the fish do incorporate DNA from the ocean pout. But he said there was no intention to mislead. "I don't think it is intentionally hidden. It has been disclosed many times and published in papers," he said, adding that the description on the website had been simplified to make it less confusing.
Would you eat a fish with a name as horrible as AquAdvantage®? And also, the whole "frankenfish" thing? I mean, do you even eat fish at all, or just Cheetos and Hi-C? You can't be fooled into eating genetically modified food if your food never had genes in the first place, right?
[Guardian; pic via AP]