Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, have been common on US farms for nearly two decades in plant form, with corn, soybean and cotton seeds altered to make crops resistant to bugs and herbicides.
However, the vast majority of such GMO crops are used in animal feed or processed into ingredients for packaged food, rather than consumed directly by people.
Most consumers want to know whether their food, or any ingredients in their food is derived from genetically engineered sources.
The law does not require foods containing ingredients derived from these salmon to be labeled as GE, but the FDA recognizes that many consumers are interested in this information, and some food manufacturers will want to make the distinction.
Draft guidelines on how food manufacturers could identify whether the salmon in their products are genetically modified are being issued, but the guidelines state that such labeling would be voluntary.
The FDA this year approved GMO apples and potatoes, but they so far aren’t sold widely in stores or restaurants, and some food brands have vowed not to carry them. Companies including Kroger & Target have pledged not to stock GMO salmon.
The approval of GE salmon has been fiercely opposed by some consumer and environmental groups, which have argued that the safety studies were inadequate and that wild salmon populations might be affected if the engineered fish were to escape into the oceans and rivers.
All of the fish will be female, and reproductively sterile, to prevent inadvertent breeding of the genetically modified fish with wild salmon.
The fish are supposed to be raised only in two designated land-based and contained hatcheries in Canada and Panama to lessen the chances that they will escape.
There is little doubt that transgenetic fish will, if raised, escape to the surrounding waters. Estimates of farmed salmon escapees in British Columbia total at least 400,000 fish from 1991 to 2001.
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