'Frankenfish' may be coming to a dinner table near you

SALEM, Ore. - Some call it "Frankenfish."

It's a new genetically-engineered salmon that could soon land on your dinner table, and for the first time the FDA is looking at approving a genetically modified meat.

The meat is controversial and you might end up eating the new "super-fish" without even knowing it.

A company called AquaBounty started with a regular Atlantic salmon. It then added the DNA of a chinook salmon and an eel-like fish, which is how they made the super-fish.

The new DNA changes the hormones in the Atlantic salmon, making it grow quickly.

Scott Dahlman, with Oregonians for Food and Shelter in Salem, says the super-fish is safe to eat and is highly regulated by the FDA.

"There'll be a lot of curiosity about it to start off with," he says. "If it meets the needs of the people, if they're able to get what they want at a price that they want, and it's got the taste and characteristics they want, I think it will really take off."

But George Kimbrell with the Center for Food Safety in Portland believes the FDA is not doing a thorough enough job to make sure this scientific experiment is safe to eat and let loose on the world.

"Our position is this is a dangerous and irresponsible idea," he says.

Critics say 15 percent of farmed salmon escape. They believe the super-salmon could get out and cause damage.

Like something out of the movie "Jurassic Park," with its genetically engineered dinosaurs, some think the genetically engineered salmon will eat voraciously to keep up with their own growth, interbreed with other fish and weaken and destroy salmon in the wild. The fear is that jobs and fish could disappear.

"People don't want this fish. It has no redeeming social value. As we said, it creates only risk," says Kimbrell.

But supporters say AquaBounty is farming the fish securely by harvesting eggs on an island in Canada and flying them to landlocked tanks in Panama.

If they do escape somehow, supporters say the fish will all be female. They will also be sterile and so unable to breed.

"I mean, this is really just a new way to farm salmon, which is something we've actually been doing for years," says Dahlman. "It's just a new species of fish that some of these farmers might be using."

The FDA may soon approve the fish but whether you think it's a "super-salmon" or a "Frankenfish," you may not know if you're eating it. The FDA will not require labels telling you it's genetically engineered (GE).

"There's no requirement by the FDA because the FDA says that these things are not materially different," Dahlman says.

Kimbrell says many other countries require GE labels and he thinks Oregon and the entire United States should as well, especially for a creature he sees as a danger to humans, fish and jobs.

"People have a right to know," he says. "If this is going to be approved, and we think it shouldn't be, but if it is, it needs to be labeled."

Submit written comments to:

Division of Dockets
Management (HFA-305)
Food and Drug Administration
5630 Fishers Lane, rm. 1061
Rockville, MD 20852
Identify comments with the docket number: [Docket No. FDA-2011-N-0899]

For further information contact:

Eric Silberhorn
Center for Veterinary
Medicine (HFV-162)
Food and Drug Administration, 7500 Standish Pl.
Rockville, MD 20855
(240) 276-8247