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Genetically-modified salmon gets approval

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WASHINGTON—What’s for dinner?

Before long, it may well be genetically-modified salmon—the first such altered animal cleared for human consumption in the United States.

Critics call it “frankenfish,” but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted its approval yesterday, saying the faster-growing salmon is safe to eat.

It could be available in a couple of years.

“There are no biologically-relevant differences in the nutritional profile of AquAdvantage Salmon compared to that of other farm-raised Atlantic salmon,” the agency noted.

The Obama administration had stalled in approving the salmon for more than five years amid consumer concerns about genetically-modified foods.

The fish grows twice as fast as normal salmon, so it reaches market size more quickly.

AquAdvantage Salmon is engineered by the Massachusetts-based company AquaBounty.

Ron Stotish, the company’s CEO, said in a statement that the fish is a “game-changer that brings healthy and nutritious food to consumers in an environmentally-responsible manner without damaging the ocean and other marine habitats.”

AquaBounty said the fish could be on grocery store shelves in about two years, which is how long it takes the salmon to grow.

Once the salmon reach stores, consumers may not know they are eating them. Because there are no material differences between an engineered and a normal salmon, the FDA says the law does not require the fish to be labelled as engineered.

AquaBounty says that genetically-modified salmon have the same flavour, texture, colour, and odour as the conventional fish.

Some retailers have said they won’t sell the fish at all—retailers Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Target, and Kroger all have said they are not planning to sell AquAdvantage Salmon.

Critics have pressured retailers to reject the salmon, which they have labelled “frankenfish.”

They worry it could cause human allergies and the eventual decimation of the natural salmon population if it escapes into the wild.

“There’s no place on our dinner plates for genetically-engineered fish,” said Lisa Archer of the environmental advocacy group Friends of the Earth.

“We will continue to work to ensure the market, from grocery retailers to restaurants, continues to listen to the majority of consumers that don’t want to eat this poorly studied, unlabelled genetically-engineered fish,” she vowed.

Just hours after the announcement, another advocacy group, The Center for Food Safety, said it would sue FDA to block the approval.

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