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Genetically-Modified Salmon May Be Coming — With No Identifying Labels

Genetically Modified Fish

Genetically modified fish. (Credit: CBS 2)

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A new concern has mounted about a type of genetically-modified food – and it’s not a vegetable or a fruit, but a fish.

As CBS 2’s Kristine Johnson reported, salmon has now been reengineered to grow bigger at a faster rate. But shoppers are made aware of the changes – prompting some to ask if we are all fishing for trouble.

Raised on a farm or fished from the wild, salmon is a popular choice by any health-conscious diet. But the new salmon created in the lab is raising alarm.

“Something like that does scare me,” said Erica Cohen of Ossining.

“I don’t think that’s right for them to do that,” added Christopher Paterson of Fordham, the Bronx.

“I just want to know what I’m eating, and I’m not sure what the consequences are down the road,” added Jerry Lin of Riverdale, the Bronx.

It appears that no one is anxious to eat the genetically-modified salmon, which was created using genes from other fish.

“This is crossing lines that you can really only cross in a lab,” said Food and Water Watch director Patty Lovera. “This wouldn’t happen in a natural system. This is crossing different species and taking that DNA and moving it around.”

The end result is a group of fish of the same age with the same parents, but one that has been genetically modified to grow much larger.

Aquabounty, the company that created the salmon, claimed they grow twice as fast as natural fish. Each has genes from the Chinook salmon and the eel-like ocean pout.

The Food and Drug Administration is expected to approve the fish, and say it is as safe to eat as other salmon.

“It probably won’t be labeled, and so people would have no idea at the store if they were getting engineered fish or not,” said Dr. Michael Hansen of the Consumers Union.

So far, despite protests across the country and public concern, the FDA has not required labeling for genetically-modified crops, which have been approved for more than a decade. Now, the same controversy is heating up with the salmon – the first bio-engineered animal.

“They hear genetic modification, and it sounds, frankly, pretty scary,” said Dr. William Hallman of the Rutgers University Food Policy Institute.

Hallman studies how the public feels about bio-engineered foods.

“Our research and the research of others show that if that product has that label, consumers are less likely to buy it,” he said. “People don’t like things they don’t understand.”

The FDA said in a statement: “We recognize and appreciate the strong interest that many consumers have in knowing whether a food was produced using bio-engineering. The FDA supports voluntary labeling that provides consumers with this information.”

Doug Goodman, seafood manager of the Stew Leonard’s supermarket in Yonkers, takes great pride in the fish he sells, and he is required to use all kinds of labels – indicating what country his fish come from, whether they are farmed or wild, and whether they contain added ingredients. He cannot believe genetically-modified salmon won’t be labeled.

“I would definitely want to label it,” he said. “I feel it’s only fair that our consumers know what they’re eating.”

”Right now, we have 61 countries throughout the world that require food from genetically-engineered plants or animals to be labeled as such, so the notion we cant require it here is nonsense,” added Hansen.

The FDA has not made a final decision regarding labeling. Legislation is expected to be introduced in the New York State Assembly that would require labeling of genetically-modified foods.

Do you think labels should be required to identify genetically-modified salmon? Leave your comments below…