Valley fish distributors steering clear of genetically-modified salmon

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Posted: Nov 20, 2015 10:52 PM CST
Updated: Nov 20, 2015 11:03 PM CST
By Derek Staahl

The FDA says genetically-modified salmon is safe to eat, but many fish distributors, growers, and grocery stores in the Valley are distancing themselves from what some are calling “Frankenfish.”

The FDA’s decision Thursday makes AquaAdvantage salmon the first genetically-modified animal cleared for human consumption.

The salmon contains a gene from the Chinook salmon and molecular material from the ocean pout fish, which is similar to an eel. AquaBounty Technologies, a Massachusetts biotech company, says the salmon can grow to market size in as fast as half the time as ordinary farmed salmon while eating 10 percent less food. The company says that makes the salmon more sustainable.

On Friday, Costco announced it would not sell AquaAdvantage salmon, joining a list that already includes Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Target, Kroger, and other retailers.

In the Valley, fish distributor Santa Monica Seafood said it would not carry the fish because of controversy surrounding genetically modified products.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest says the genetically modified salmon has been studied for years, and there’s no evidence it poses a health risk.

“The science today seems to suggest that this genetically engineered salmon is no different than conventional salmon,” said the Center’s Director of Biotechnology Gregory Jaffe.

But he still believes the fish should be labeled as genetically modified. The FDA, however, is not requiring such labeling, which is consistent with the agency’s stance on genetically-modified crops.

“That’s going to hurt the market in the end,” said local tilapia farmer John Healy of Southwest Aquaponics and Fish Hatchery.

“We’re supposed to ‘truth-in-label’ everything else we grow, but not salmon. It raises a flag,” he said.

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