Food News

Genetically Modified Salmon Coming to a Store Near You (Although You May Never Know It)

Short of earning a Ph.D in bio-tech science, making sense of genetically modified (GM) or engineered (GE) ingredients in America's food chain is almost impossible. Primarily because by law GM foods aren't required to be labeled as such. So you literally need that degree along with a boatload of data and possibly lobbying funds to know if the food you're putting in your body has been genetically modified.

In almost every other developed nation in the world, GM foods have to be labeled. Europe won't even allow most GM seeds to be planted in the soil. Yet just about every food we touch here, specifically corn, is genetically modified.

The issue has gotten a lot of attention lately because of a big fat salmon. The company Aqua Bounty has developed the technology to "grow (salmon) to market size in half the time of conventional salmon," which is based on a specific molecular modification that enables shorter production cycles.

The FDA is reviewing an application from Aqua Bounty to permit sales of these genetically engineered salmon in America. Interestingly enough, reported that Aqua Bounty recently ran into a bit financial trouble and received $500,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture biotechnology risk assessment grant for GM fish. According to the USDA's grant site, "This project would research technologies that would render fish sterile to decrease the risk of gene flow from transgene fish."

That has Salmon Nation a bit worried considering that 400,000 fish escaped from salmon farms in a 10 year period from 1991 to 2001.

If aprpoved, the Aqua Bounty salmon will be the first genetically modified animal approved for human consumption. But the recent uproar isn't actually about putting the fish on the market. It's about freedom of information. People just want to know that the meat they're eating is genetically changed.

A growing movement called Label It! is on the case and all they're asking is that the FDA require that GE salmon be labeled under the premise that consumers deserve to know.

But, of course, most government agencies, industrial food manufacturers and anyone that can throw money at Washington feel that labels are just too confusing for the American public. Their idea is, "Trust us. It's safe. We so got this."

For now, it's in committee. If the FDA approves the sell of the big fish, we can hope there's transparency in food labeling so we know exactly what we're buying.

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Lauren Drewes Daniels is the Dallas Observer's food editor. She started writing about local restaurants, chefs, beer and kouign-amanns in 2011. She's driven through two dirt devils and is certain they were both some type of cosmic force.