The Food and Drug Administration is currently reviewing applications for the commercial introduction of several species of genetically modified fish. At present, no transgenic animals have been approved for human consumption, but experts feel it is only a matter of time before approval is granted. The step could boost dwindling fish catches and provide a vital source of protein to millions. But there is growing concern among many scientists that such modified fish could lead to undesirable consequences such as human health problems and ecological disaster.
The FDA has already conducted detailed safety evaluations of the human growth hormone protein and approved its use in dairy products. The agency has also found that non-primate hormones in food are safe for human consumption. Such results will no doubt have a strong bearing on the approval of transgenic fish. At least 20 research groups in over a dozen countries are currently working to develop transgenic varieties of more than 20 species of fish. All eyes are on the U.S. as Cuba and China – the other leaders in the field – are not keen to be the first to introduce GM fish into the market. It is not known which company will be the first to get the FDA’s green light or when, though some experts speculate it will be sometime in 2004. Once transgenic fish make their way into the highways of the open ocean, the FDA agrees, there can be no recall. Then it is just a matter of waiting to see if the benefits outweigh the risks.