A fast-growing salmon has become the first genetically engineered animal to be approved for human consumption in the United States.
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The decision, issued by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on 19 November, releases the salmon from two decades of regulatory limbo. The move was met with swift opposition from some environmental and food-safety groups.
But for advocates of the technology, the decision comes as a relief after a long and vexing wait. They say that it could spur the development of other genetically engineered animals. “It opens up the possibility of harnessing this technology,” says Alison Van Eenennaam, an animal geneticist at the University of California, Davis. “The regulatory roadblock had really been disincentivizing the world from using it.”
The genetically modified fish, called ‘AquAdvantage’ salmon, were engineered by AquaBounty Technologies of Maynard, Massachusetts, to express higher levels of a growth hormone than wild salmon. The fish grow to full size in 18 months rather than 3 years.
According to proponents of the technology, these modifications mean that the fish require smaller amounts of food and other resources per kilogram of harvested fish, and that the modified salmon could ease pressure caused by heavy fishing of wild populations.
These fish can reportedly grow twice as fast as conventionally-farmed Atlantic salmon, reaching adult size in some 18 months as compared to 30 months. AquaBounty has also claimed the salmon consume 20 to 25 percent less food per gram of new flesh.
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