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Ron Stotish, CEO of AquaBounty, said at Monday's hearing that his company's fish product is safe and environmentally sustainable. But critics have two main concerns: The safety of the food to humans and the salmon's effect on the environment.
Because the altered fish has never been eaten before, they say, it could include dangerous allergens, especially because seafood is highly allergenic. They also worry that the fish will escape and intermingle with the wild salmon population, which is already endangered. They would grow fast and consume more food to the detriment of the conventional wild salmon, the critics fear.
The FDA tried to allay both of those concerns Monday, saying the fish shouldn't cause any allergies not already found in conventional salmon and there is little chance they could escape. But the advisory panel, which was formed to give input to the agency and did not hold a final vote, cast some doubts on whether there was enough evidence to back up those assertions.
It is still unclear whether the public will have an appetite for the fish if it is approved. Genetic engineering is already widely used for crops, but the government until now has not considered allowing the consumption of modified animals. Although the potential benefits -- and profits -- are huge, many people have qualms about manipulating the genetic code of other living creatures.
If approved, the fish could be in grocery stores in two years, the company estimates. The company is arguing that the fish does not need to be labeled as genetically engineered. Stotish said, "The label could even be misleading because it implies a difference that doesn't exist."
Background on FDA meeting:
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