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FDA approved GMO salmon not catching on in Seattle

SEATTLE - The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday approved America's first genetically modified animal food: Salmon. The prospect of GMO salmon is getting the cold shoulder in salmon-savvy Seattle.

Critics call it "Frankenfish" because it grows twice as fast as normal farmed salmon by using genes from a Chinook salmon and an eel.

The FDA ended years of arguing by declaring it does not pose a threat to human health or the environment.

Whether consumers eat it may depend on price. It could fetch a lower cost than other salmon because it gets to market faster. But some consumers may never know they're eating GMO salmon because the FDA did not require labeling.

Philippe Cousteau, founder of EarthEcho and part of the famous ocean protection family, said he has concerns about tampering with nature but is certainly concerned about transparency.

"The big issue that I have is that they're not going to be required to label that," he said. "And I think that's a fundamental right here in this country to know what we're eating. And to allow people to come to their own conclusions."

Cousteau is in Seattle shooting a documentary on environmental threats to Pacific Northwest seafood, including the impact of ocean acidification on oysters.

At America's most iconic salmon market, Seattle's Pike Place Market, the fishmongers scoff at GMO salmon. They view sustainably caught wild salmon as a food ethic and don't like what they feel are the uncertainties of GMO salmon.

"The true answer is that we don't know," said Tako Kakutani of Pike Place Fish. "We simply don't know what that might mean for us, what that might mean for the future of salmon, what that might mean for the industry at large as well."

The patent holder says GMO salmon grows twice as fast and goes to the market quickly with potentially greater profits and lower prices.

The real test for GMO salmon will come at grocery stores across America where consumer demand will be measured.

Some national chains like Whole Foods vow to never sell GMO salmon. But some retailers ultimately will, and consumers might see lower prices. A sampling of salmon lovers at Pike Place Market was mixed on the GMO question.

"I have no problem with genetically modified," said one customer. "If the FDA has approved it, I think it'll probably be great."

"I'd take the regular salmon because I'm used to it," said another customer.

Seattle is home to the Alaska fishing fleet. Commercial fishermen see competition. Half of America's seafood is now farm raised. GMO Salmon could increase that.

Longtime Alaska fisherman Dan Demmert believes people will be short-changed eating GMO salmon. He says he certainly will not eat it. "I won't intentionally," he said.

The patent holder says there is almost no risk of breeding with wild salmon because GMO salmon will be farmed in land, and one of the genetic changes is impotence.

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