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Is Genetically Engineered Food the Food of the Future?

By John McQuaid, "Is This the Food of the Future?," March/April 2011

Super salmon, enviropigs, blemish-free apples—What does the new wave of genetically engineered foods mean for our health and our planet?

When I was a kid, I’d go down to the fishing docks near the New England town where my family spent our summer vacations. The small, mostly one-man boats brought in lobster, crab, flounder and cod, and I’d sometimes watch the fishermen offloading the catch, which you could buy a half hour later in a store adjacent to the dock.

As I got older, buying fresh fish at the market reliably brought back those memories: the clear-eyed whole fish, the rainbow colors of various fillets, piles of shrimp and scallops, still carried a whiff of the ocean and of the struggles of fishermen who’d worked to bring their catch from the wild. But at some point—I think it was about 10 or 15 years ago—buying fish ceased to be a vicarious adventure for me. Wild-caught seafood now might come from a population overfished to the point of collapse. Larger fish might contain elevated levels of mercury or other dangerous chemicals. A farmed fish may have been raised in tight, pest-infested pens, loaded up with antibiotics, fed a man-made fishmeal and—if it’s salmon—tinged with dyes to give its meat a consistent color.

And now, another big change in your seafood is on the way—a bona fide revolution, in fact: It’s called the AquAdvantage salmon. If the Food and Drug Administration gives it a thumbs-up—as it appears poised to, perhaps in the next few months—it will become the first genetically engineered animal ever approved for human consumption.

Next: More on the Aquaculture Industry and Transgenic Fish »


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