States Seek Stance on Frankenfish while FDA Ponders

Mar 11, 2002

Efforts of at least two states to make their own decisions about genetically-modified fish, in addition to Aqua Bounty Farms Inc.’s 1996 application for FDA approval, have brought the “Frankenfish” debate to a head. The FDA has given no indication of when it may rule, although Aqua Bounty expects a decision by 2004.

In the meanwhile, California is considering outlawing modified fish. A bill pending in the state Senate would ban the import, possession or release of the fish anywhere in the state. Another pending bill would simply require supermarkets to label genetically modified fish. On the opposite side of the spectrum, Maryland passed the law last year permitting the farming of genetically modified fish in ponds or lakes that don’t connect to other waterways.

The genetic tinkering is aimed at faster supermarket stocking. The engineered salmon, raised by Aqua Bounty, grow to market size twice as fast as their unmodified cousins. Some researchers say fast-growing fish could become a new staple in the developing world. Supporters say these salmon would sell for less in supermarkets, while easing pressure on wild or hatchery-raised fish. But opponents fear the engineered fish will hasten the demise of natural species if allowed to crossbreed. They also argue that human health risks have not been thoroughly studied.

Moderator Comment: What are your views on the need
for genetically altered fish, seafood and other agricultural species?

The aim of breeding these so-called “Frankenfish”, we
are told, is to keep supermarket cases stocked. Is there a shortage? Does the
additional supply mean larger frozen seafood sections and/or will there just
be more dead fish for stores to dispose of. [George
Anderson – Moderator

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