The super salmon are (almost) here. The Food and Drug Administration has reportedly finished its evaluation of the environmental impacts of the first fish genetically engineered (GE) for human consumption.
The GE fish under review is AquaBounty Technologies' AquAdvantage Salmon, pictured in the background up top (the salmon in the foreground is an unmodified Atlantic salmon sibling of the same age).
The evaluation, along with a document written in support of the commercialization of AquAdvantage salmon in the U.S., is currently under review at the White House's Office of Management.
According to a 2010 study by The National Agricultural Statistics Board, 93 percent of soybeans and 86 percent of corn in the United States is genetically modified, and many companies are looking to broaden genetic engineering's marketability by expanding to animal modification.
Talking Points Memo's Jim Kozubek reports that AquaBounty's is one of as many as 16 applications for transgenic fish currently under review throughout the world, though none of them is believed to have been approved yet.
So what's the story with these fish? Does the fact that they're genetically modified make it easier for them to rise up and revolt against humanity? Will they develop the ability to speak, or even dance? Not likely. But that doesn't mean people aren't worried about the implications of a mass-produced, genetically modified fish.
According to TPM, most people are worried about the conservation-related implications of GE fish. Organizations like the non-profit Center for Food Safety — a group that has been very active in campaigns against GM-crop company Monsanto — are concerned that the genetically modified fish could escape, and mix with wild salmon populations, something the Center for Food Safety claims could jeopardize salmon immune systems and alter the balance of whole ecosystems.
The GE salmon have also been shown to have a ravenous appetite, which could also pose a problem for natural ecosystems were they to become inhabited by GE/wild offspring.
That said, AquaBounty has reportedly gone to great lengths to ensure their genetically altered fish are born sterile, and has emphasized that the company's farming program would be limited to isolated "land-based systems" that would — according to Aquabounty CEO Ronald Stotish — make the risk of GE/wild-fish-mating infinitesimally small.
You can read more about the implications of GM Fish over at Talking Points Memo