We’ve been hearing about this possibility for years and years.
And on Thursday the Food and Drug Administration cleared the faster-growing AquAdvantage Salmon for human consumption.
Critics call it “frankenfish,” and Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Target and Kroger have said they aren’t planning to sell it.
FDA officials say the fish won’t have to be labeled as genetically engineered, a policy consistent with its stance on foods made from genetically modified crops.
But the FDA issued draft guidance on wording that companies could use to voluntarily label the salmon as genetically modified or to label other salmon as not genetically engineered.
The FDA was first approached about approval of the fish in the 1990s, and the agency made its initial determination that the fish would be safe for human consumption and the environment more than five years ago.
FDA officials said on Thursday the process took so long because it was the first approval of its kind. People involved in the application suspect that the Obama administration delayed approval because it was wary of a political backlash.
Despite the approval, the salmon won’t be in stores immediately because it will take about two years for even these fast-growing salmon to reach market size.
Also, the approved production facility, in Panama, has the capacity to produce only about 100 tons of fish a year — a tiny amount compared with the more than 200,000 tons of Atlantic salmon the United States imports annually.
There currently is a surge of interest in developing new genetically altered farm animals and pets. New techniques, including one known as Crispr-Cas9, enable scientists to edit animal genomes rather than add genes from other species — making it far easier to create altered animals.