Is Genetically Engineered Salmon Safe to Eat?

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Salmon is considered to be one of the healthiest fish to eat. But instead of eating the salmon God made, would you eat the salmon that humans have tinkered with a bit?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is debating whether or not such fish are safe for people to eat and if it should be labeled as such.

Genetically-engineered salmon are designed to grow twice as fast. It could soon be another meat option available at your local supermarket.

"I think it's kind of weird to me, I think 'Why?'" said Justin Hall, assistant manager of Pike Place Fish. "I think what's the benefit?"

It may taste the same, but a side-by-side comparison of an Atlantic salmon next to one that has been genetically altered makes the difference hard to miss as the engineered salmon is larger in size.

Scientists use a growth hormone from another fish and genetically-engineer it into the salmon. The hormone acts as an "on" switch and keeps the fish growing all year long.

AquaBounty, a Massachusetts-based company, has been seeking FDA approval of its product for years and insists its fish is safe to eat.

"We hope that people will take a look at the data and understand that this is very well researched fish," said Ron Scottish, CEO of AquaBounty. "The food is safe and the food has significant benefits associated with it."

However, there are plenty of critics. They worry about everything from possible allergens to endangering the wild salmon population, if the genetically-engineered fish were somehow introduced into the environment.

"My only assessment of the emerging picture is that under a range of ecological conditions there would indeed be a risk of ecological harm being realized," said Dr. Eric Hallerman, department chair of fisheries science at Virginia Tech.

The company said safeguards will prevent that scenario from ever being a risk factor. But it remains to be seen if people will still eat the fish.

"I think most people would be a little scared not knowing what is involved, but if I have more information, I might be fine with it," one woman said.

The FDA has requested more information from the company before it makes its final decision. If the genetically-altered salmon is approved, consumers may not only be able to taste the difference -- they may not know if they're even buying it. The FDA would not likely require a special label for it.

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John Jessup

John Jessup

CBN News Anchor

John Jessup serves as the main news anchor for CBN, a position he assumed after 10 years reporting for the network in Washington, D.C. His work in broadcast news has earned him several awards in reporting, producing, and coordinating elections coverage. Follow John on Twitter @JohnCBNNews and "like" him at