Transgenic fish proves a regulatory riddle
(The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
15th - January 2003
A salmon that is likely to become the first genetically modified animal grown for human consumption is straining government policies to protect the food supply and the environment, a research group warned Tuesday.
Critics fear that the transgenic salmon, which grow twice as fast as natural ones, might run amok in the wild and damage ocean ecosystems.
But it will not be regulated as either a food or environmental risk.
Instead, it will be treated as a new animal drug, its future determined by the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Veterinary Medicine.
A new report by the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology says the unlikely scenario results from a patchwork of federal regulations outstripped by the rapid progress of biotechnology.
'We seem to be treading in uncharted legal waters,' said Michael Rodemeyer, the group's executive director. 'Regulators will increasingly have to stretch their authority to make old laws and regulations address the next wave of products.'
Researchers have genetically modified at least 14 other fish species. They are also working on engineered chickens, pigs and cows.
The Atlantic salmon, developed by Massachusetts-based Aqua Bounty Farms, is the first food animal to undergo FDA scrutiny. But the Pew report questions whether the agency has the 'expertise, authority and resources necessary to conduct a comprehensive review' of the fish.
If the salmon, which contain a growth gene from the Chinook salmon and another from ocean pout, is approved for commercial use, it would be reared in coastal pens.
Environmentalists fear that escaping 'frankenfish' might interfere with wild salmon, which are already stressed by pollution and overfishing.
Aqua Bounty is engineering the salmon to be sterile, but critics aren't satisfied. Last month, Washington state banned the cultivation of genetically engineered fish.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
News and commentary written or edited by John Sackton
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