Genetically modified food is a hot topic.
Already, the majority of corn and soy grown in the U.S. has been genetically modified.
But the science has also reached a range of other consumer products, and that includes salmon, which is set to hit U.S. restaurants and markets next year.
Genetically modified salmon grow quickly, reaching market size in half the time as conventional salmon.
Gene manipulation allows the salmon to grow year round — not just in spring and summer.
The process was first developed by Canadian researchers 30 years ago.
“He took a gene from a chinook salmon and he injected that into an Atlantic salmon,” said Sylvia Wulf, chief executive and president of AquaBounty Technologies. “Because it is one gene from a chinook and 44,000 genes from an Atlantic salmon, that actually accelerates its growth at its most vulnerable stages.”
One area of concern is containment and what would happen if the fish were to escape into nearby streams and rivers, potentially becoming an invasive species.
Farm manager PeterBowyer says the company has a range of measures in place.
“We take it really seriously. We are in Indiana where there aren’t any salmon. The fish are sterile,” Bowyer said. “They are all female. But even after all of that, we still have physical barriers in place.”
Critics have labeled the salmon “Frankenfish” and question whether it’s safe for human consumption.
But after years of testing, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration cleared the salmon in 2015, making it the only genetically engineered animal approved for food use by Washington.
“Our salmon is the most heavily tested food in the history of mankind. And what they concluded was that, our AquAdvantage salmon is as safe and nutritious as conventional salmon,” Wulf said.
The tanks are currently full of conventional salmon that will be harvested in around 6 months to 7 months.
But that will then be closely followed by the first harvest of genetically modified salmon that will take place later in 2020.
The company has sold genetically modified salmon in Canada since 2016.
Wulf says there are many benefits to GMO salmon, including its need for less feed than conventional salmon.
And she says it can satisfy world demand for seafood – at a time when natural stocks are threatened by overfishing and pollution.
The company still faces some obstacles over labeling before the salmon hits shelves in the U.S., but it’s already looking at further expansion options.