Genetically modified salmon awaits FDA approval

New York (CBS News) -- This is the latest frontier in the battle over genetically modified food. Atlantic salmon, altered with genetic material from a chinook salmon and an ocean pout. The result is a fish that grows to market weight twice as fast as wild salmon.

"Most producers will say it takes 24-30 months to produce a market size salmon. We can do that in 18," said AquaBounty CEO Ron Stotish.

AquaBounty created the fish 25 years ago and is waiting for FDA approval. The salmon would be the first genetically modified meat sold for human consumption.

"This is a generation of technology that can improve productivity, can improve availability of food worldwide," said Stotish.

But the opposition is fierce.

"Is it better in any way?" we asked Michael Hansen, senior food scientist for Consumers Union.

"No," he replied.

Hansen's concerned the fish will cause allergic reactions -- and about what would happen if it escapes into the wild.

"That could cause genetic pollution and have an adverse effect on the natural salmon population," he explained.

Major grocery chains including Kroger, Safeway, and Whole Foods have already said they won't carry the salmon, even if it is approved.

"We're disappointed. The product, we believe, will succeed once consumers have an opportunity to sample it," said Stotish.

The FDA ruled the fish is safe and said it's unlikely to harm the environment, but the agency stopped short of a final decision and tells us there's no timeline for when that might happen.

If the FDA gives the green light, the modified salmon could be on store shelves in less than two years.


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