Washington: US health officials are set to rule on whether a faster-growing, genetically engineered fish is safe to eat in a decision that could deliver the first altered animal food to consumers` dinner plates.
The fish, made by Aqua Bounty Technologies Inc, is manipulated to grow twice as fast as traditional Atlantic salmon, something the company says could boost the nation`s fish sector and reduce pressure on the environment.
But consumer advocates and food safety experts are worried that splicing and dicing fish genes may have the opposite effect, leading to more industrial farming and potential escapes into the wild. Side effects from eating such fish are also unknown, with little data to show it is safe, they say.
"They`re basically putting the fish on permanent growth hormone so it grows faster ... so they can sell bigger fish faster," said Jaydee Hanson, a policy analyst for the nonprofit Center for Food Safety.
It also raises questions about the industrialization of the nation`s food supply at a time when consumers -- exasperated by massive egg and other food recalls -- are growing increasingly concerned and seeking more locally produced meals.
The small Massachusetts-based biotechnology company is seeking Food and Drug Administration approval to sell its salmon, called AquAdvantage, to fish farmers nationwide.
If given the green light, the salmon could be followed by the company`s engineered trout and tilapia. Other scientists are also developing altered pigs and cows for food. The United States already allows genetically modified plants.
On September 19, the FDA kicks off a three-day meeting to discuss whether to approve the salmon. Outside advisers will weigh available data and offer advice, although the FDA will later make the final call.