Genetically modified salmon needs tougher FDA scrutiny, groups say


US consumer groups have petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to subject a genetically engineered version of the Atlantic salmon to a more rigorous review process before it is deemed safe to eat.

Reuters reported that the genetically altered fish, the "AquAdvantage salmon" marketed by AquaBounty Technologies of Massachusetts, is classified as a new animal drug for the purposes of FDA review.

The salmon contains a gene from another fish species, the Chinook salmon, helping it to grow twice as fast as normal.

If approval is given, it would be the first time the government allowed such modified animals to join the foods that go onto the nation's dinner tables, according to the Associated Press.

AquaBounty chief executive Ron Stotish said Monday, the first of two days of hearings, that his company's fish product — which grows twice as fast as its conventional "sisters" — was safe and environmentally sustainable, the AP reported in a story headlined "Super salmon or 'Frankenfish'?."

FDA officials have largely agreed with him, saying that the salmon is as safe to eat as the natural variety, although they have yet to decide whether to approve the request. 

The petition by the consumer groups Food & Water Watch, Consumers Union, and the Center for Food Safety calls for the salmon to be classified as a food additive, which would require a more rigorous FDA review.

The groups says the way AquaBounty's salmon are created substantially alters their composition and nutritional value.

They said in a statement, reported by the AP, that the "new animal drug" designation is insufficient to protect public health.

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