The PR battle over genetically modified food (and how/whether it should be labeled) just got fishier.
AquaBounty Technologies (ABT), a biotechnology company in Massachusetts, has developed a fish called the AquAdvantage Salmon, which grows twice as fast as its naturally-bred counterparts. Pending FDA approval, this flashily-named fish could be the first genetically-altered animal marketed for human consumption. We’ve previously discussed the fact that there is no law on the books requiring genetically modified foods to carry labels identifying them as such — and this makes matters even sketchier. Unless customers purchase organic or “free range” seafood, they won’t know whether the fish they’re buying is plain old farm-raised salmon or this new brand of “frankenfish.”
Here’s the quick (and extremely simplified) version of how the “AquAdvantage Salmon” engineering process works: Atlantic salmon don’t grow continuously because their growth hormones are only active for roughly three months per year. In order to “fix” this, ABT created a new gene construct that combines a regulator gene from a fish called an ocean pout with the growth hormones of Chinook salmon. This combination is then injected into the eggs of Atlantic salmon–and the resulting fish take 18 months to grow to the same size regular salmon spend three years achieving.
The company claims that the frankenfish is an answer to global food shortages thanks to its “shorter production cycles and increased efficiency of production”.