Yoni Zohar says FDA approval of genetically engineered salmon could have environmental benefits

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has just approved the first genetically modified animal for sale as food: AquaAdvantage salmon,. The FDA determined that the salmon is not biologically different than nongenetically engineered salmon and is safe to consume.

A CNN article on the news shares comments by UMBC’s Yonathan Zohar, professor and chair of the department of marine biotechnology, on the environmental benefits of the fish, which is designed to grow more quickly, to meet the continually increasing demand that is currently threatening salmon populations. Zohar’s research focuses on developing environmentally sustainable aquaculture techniques, and he has previously discussed the limitations of current fish farming practices, which can be environmentally problematic.

To prevent unintended environmental impacts, such as the escape and reproduction of the fish with wild species, the salmon approved by the FDA must be reproductively sterile and raised in tanks on land, at facilities in Canada and Panama.

Discussing the controversial issue of food labels, Zohar argued that labels identifying the genetically engineered salmon should not deter people from consuming the fish, but should make consumers aware of the product they are purchasing. As long as consumers want to continue eating fish, the science endorsed by the FDA should be accepted, said Zohar. He points to a history of consumers eating genetically modified crops like corn, tomatoes and soybeans.

Read the full article on CNN.