A genetically modified salmon will become the first GM food animal to go on sale in the US, according to its maker, AquaBounty, possibly launching an era of steaks and chops from creatures with modified DNA.
In the US, a number of genetically modified animals have been approved or cleared for sale. There’s the neon GloFish with added fluorescence, which you can find at a pet store. And there are a handful of goats, rabbits, and chickens engineered to manufacture drugs in their milk or eggs.
But so far, only one genetically engineered animal has been approved in the US as food. That animal, an Atlantic salmon engineered to grow faster on fish farms, took 20 years to win a nod from regulators, and then got held up for four more years over a labeling dispute. AquaBounty predicted that it would be ready to sell salmon to distributors in the US by [Dec. 2020].
AquaBounty’s long (and expensive) trip to the marketplace has been discouraging. Who wants their product to be denounced as a frankenfish by environmental campaigners or be prominently labeled as “bioengineered”? Yet now that the fish has won approval, it may be a “wildly important” signal to others working on genetically engineered animals, says Jack Bobo, a former board member at the company. “All GMO research on animals basically stopped for 20 years,” he says. “There was no reason to do it until something got approved.”