Should we eat genetically engineered food?

I’ve always been a fan of better living through science, but recent headlines about genetically engineered food sort of creep me out.

I can see the business benefits from genetically engineered food, but as a consumer I have questions.


Earlier this week there was a wire story on a Canadian company, Okanagan Specialty Fruits, that is seeking approval for a genetically altered apple that won’t turn brown after it’s sliced open.

At it’s core (sorry), the technology involved in the altered apple sounds benign — the genes involved in the browning process are, in effect, turned off.

But isn’t the brown color how we tell an apple is yucky?

Actually, genetically engineered fruit isn’t new. Regulators have approved tomatoes that have been altered to ripen more slowly and plums that resist viruses, according to an AP report.

Fruit is one thing, but what about seafood.

AquaBounty Technologies, a Massachusetts company, is seeking approval to sell a genetically engineered Atlantic salmon that would grow faster than unaltered Atlantic salmon.

Transgenic%20vs%20non-transgenic%20siblings%20CREDIT%20AquaBounty (2).jpgCritics worry eating altered salmon will cause allergic reactions in humans. And some worry that the so-called frankenfish will harm the ecosystem by crossbreeding with normal fish.

According to the company’s website, we have nothing to fear.

The genetically altered salmon “do not grow to a larger size than conventional Atlantic salmon. Their ability to grow faster does not impact the nutritional or biological make-up of the fish. AquAdvantageĀ® Salmon simply makes more efficient use of its salmon growth genes,” AquaBounty says on its website.

A reasonable explanation, perhaps, but I’m still not likely to choose engineered salmon over mother nature’s version. If AquaBounty’s salmon makes it to the marketplace, I hope federal regulators require that restaurants and retail stores clearly identify the salmon as genetically engineered food.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration info on engineered salmon.

AquaBounty Technologies salmon info

Okanagan Specialty Fruits

Photo: AquaAdvantage salmon (background) compared to a non-transgenic Atlantic salmon of the same age. (AquaBounty)