US decision after 17-year battle over fast-growing salmon could pave way for same step in Britain
A GM salmon which grows twice as fast as ordinary fish could become the first genetically-modified animal in the world to be declared officially safe to eat, after America’s powerful food-safety watchdog ruled it posed no major health or environmental risks.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said it could not find any valid scientific reasons to ban the production of GM Atlantic salmon engineered with extra genes from two other fish species – a decision that could soon lead to its commercial production.
The verdict clears one of the last remaining hurdles for GM salmon to be lawfully sold and eaten in the US and will put pressure on salmon producers in Britain and Europe to follow suit.
Successive chief scientists to the UK Government, as well as science institutions such as the Royal Society, have endorsed the concept of GM technology as a tool for increasing food production in the 21st Century, but consumer opposition has so far blocked the approval of GM food for the dinner table.
Several government bodies including the advisory committees on the release of GM organisms and on novel foods and processes would have to review the technology before it was approved in the UK.
Supporters of the technology believe the GM salmon will make it not only easier and cheaper to produce farmed salmon, but that it could also be better for the environment because they can be grown on land-based fish farms.