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Genetically modified food v. World hunger

A chinook salmon leaps through white water

TEXT OF STORY

Bob Moon: We've learned to accept a lot of food that comes to us in, shall we say, an "altered state." Seedless watermelon, farm animals bred for extra meat, cows overflowing with milk, and the multi-billion-dollar business of genetically-modified crops, like soybeans and wheat. But this -- this would be something new on the menu: Today, the Food and Drug Administration began its first-ever hearings into whether a genetically-engineered animal is safe to eat. Massachusetts-based Aqua Bounty Technologies wants to sell a modified variation of salmon. Critics label it "franken-fish."

Sarah Gardner reports from the Marketplace Sustainability Desk.


Sarah Gardner: Aqua Bounty says its genetically altered salmon grow fatter and faster than their unaltered brethren, so fish farmers will be able to produce more salmon at lower cost.

Company CEO Ron Stotish says he's hopeful the FDA will see this new superfish as part of the solution to future food supply problems.

Ron Stotish: With a growing world population and increased demand for a safe and healthy food -- and salmon certainly is high protein and it's considered a heart-healthy food -- the requirement for salmon from aquaculture is increasing.

GMO foods are increasingly widespread. Advocates argue that feeding a world population of nine billion by mid-century means finding ways to increase food supply. But research so far on the power of genetically altered seeds to increase yields shows mixed results.

Jean Halloran at Consumers Union, for one, isn't convinced fatter fish or more bug-resistant crops will solve world hunger.

Jean Halloran: We think this is a little bit of industry hype and some international studies have said the same thing.

Two years ago, a major report from the U.N. and World Bank concluded that genetically engineered food was not the ultimate solution to world hunger and poverty. The report said that the unequal distribution of food and conflict over dwindling resources were the real challenges.

But right now, critics of this new modified salmon are focusing on issues closer to American consumers, like whether the fish will cause allergies or alter other fish populations if it escapes.

I'm Sarah Gardner for Marketplace.

About the author

Sarah Gardner is a reporter on the Marketplace sustainability desk.

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