Updated on 27 December 2012
Ms Nandita Singh, editor, BioSpectrum Asia
In 2013, genetically engineered salmon will likely reach food shelves in supermarkets in the US. In a draft environmental assessment, at the fag end of December 2012, the US regulator, Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) stated that the biotech salmon food is as safe as food from conventional Atlantic salmon. While FDA said it would take comments from the public for 60 days before making a final decision on approval, industry watchers expect it to come through, making it the first such approval for transgenic food.
The product, AquAdvantage Atlantic salmon egg, is bio-engineered to produce a fish that can grow to consumption-size in half-the-time the conventional salmon takes. Massachusetts-headquartered, LSE-listed, commercial aquaculture company, AquaBounty Technology came up with this solution of speedy salmon production to meet the global demand for seafood.
A decision in favor of AquAdvantage salmon will open the doors not just for genetically engineered animal food but will also further adoption of genetically modified (GM) food crops stuck at various stages of testing approval across countries even though at the same time this FDA decision will also provide steam to anti-GM movement.
Basically, the resistance to GM food crops is rooted in fears such as that of it being toxic to humans and animals; that it can give rise to super weeds; or the danger of cross-pollination that can impact genetic diversity in ways difficult to imagine. Just how real are these fears? As far as I have read and understood from some of my interactions with eminent scientists - these are all risks that the scientific community needs to be vigilant about and manage.
These are not issues that should obstruct GM food adoption. GM is the hottest crop technology with the potential pretty much of the same level as gene therapy for human ailments. Just imagine altering fruit color, flavor, nutritional value or even just the increase in productivity per acre by ridding the crop of pests without using any pesticide -with such promise, GM food is a worthy pursuit.