Feature

‘Frankenfish’: It’s what’s for dinner

The FDA is on the verge of approving a genetically engineered salmon for human consumption.

Beware the Frankenfish, said Derrick Z. Jackson in The Boston Globe. The FDA is on the verge of approving a genetically engineered salmon for human consumption— the first time a creature designed in a laboratory would be allowed on American dinner tables. Scientists added genes from two faster-growing breeds to create a voracious fish that’s “jacked up with enough growth hormone” to reach market size in half the normal time. As a restaurant chef, I’m alarmed, said Rick Moonen in CNN.com. The FDA and the fish’s developer, AquaBounty Technologies, insist that this genetically altered fish is as safe to eat as other farmed salmon. But how does the FDA evaluate this, without long-term studies? The government may even let AquaBounty market its fish without labels warning consumers that “it is a genetically modified product.” If that happens, “it will set a worldwide precedent,” and without realizing it, we’ll be eating fish and other animals that never existed in nature.

You environmental alarmists need to face reality, said James C. Greenwood in The Wall Street Journal. The U.N. recently reported that 80 percent of fish stocks throughout the world are in danger, due to overfishing; at this rate, we may run out of commercially viable fish in 40 years. Fish farming, which now accounts for half of the world’s seafood, has helped address this problem. But it’s not enough to feed the world’s 7 billion hungry mouths. Genetically modified salmon “are the next intelligent step,” and can become a protein-rich, “safe, and sustainable food source.” When scientists introduced genetically modified crops 14 years ago, we heard the same paranoid “Frankenfood” fears. Thanks to biotechnology, such crops as corn, soybeans, and cotton are now far more disease- and pest-resistant, enabling farmers to feed more people.

True enough, said Arthur Caplan in MSNBC.com. And no one has grown an eye in the middle of their forehead from eating genetically modified crops, so it makes sense to approve AquaBounty’s salmon. But when the FDA says that since there’s no evidence that genetically modified food is harmful, it need not be labeled, I have to disagree. “People should have a right to know what they are eating,” and if they object to engineered fish on moral grounds, they should have the option of avoiding it. So let AquaBounty stock markets with their supersized salmon—as long as they’re labeled “genetically modified.”

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