© 2022 WRVO Public Media
Your Source for NPR News
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

DEC Expert on Eating Modified Fish: "You Go First"

By Joyce Gramza


Oswego, NY – The United States Food and Drug administration has said that the so-called "AquaAdvantage" salmon appear to be the same as wild Atlantic salmon.

The fish are modified with a growth hormone gene that makes them grow quicker and mature earlier than wild salmon.

Dan Bishop says from a pure food-production standpoint, that makes sense.

Bishop is the Region 7 Fisheries manager for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. He says he's concerned that the modified fish might escape.

"We would have a couple of concerns," Bishop says. "One would be that these genetically modified fish might be capable of interbreeding with existing stocks of fish, which who knows what the result of that would be, but it probably wouldn't be good," he says.

The company that invented the fish says as a safety measure, the modified fish will all be female and sterile, but scientists say some small percentage of the fish would likely be able to reproduce.

The faster-growing fish might also threaten wild salmon by out-competing them for food.

Bishop says another concern is the potential for introducing or spreading diseases.

"We're very concerned about diseases, especially since the VHS, or viral hemorrhagic septicemia, breakouts a few years ago, and the serious fish kills that resulted from those," Bishop says.

Millions of normal salmon escape from fish farms each year. Bishop says he doesn't know how the altered fish would be confined.

He says if the environmental concerns are adequately addressed, he sees no problem with the fish.

As for the safety of eating the altered fish, Bishop says, "I guess at some point, we have to trust the Food and Drug Administration."

But would he eat one?

"I'd let somebody else eat one first," he laughs.

The FDA must also decide on whether the fish ought to be labeled as altered.

The agency has not required labeling of genetically modified plants, agreeing with industry claims that, since they are essentially the same as the normal varieties, labeling them would only confuse consumers.