Local biologist says genetically engineered salmon is safe

By Karrie Leggett

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Scientists in Canada are turning tiny salmon eggs into fish that can grow twice as fast as normal.

According to reports, scientists will be injecting certain fish with a growth hormone, but Southern Miss Biologist Mohamed Elasri says it is not the kind of growth hormone you may think.

"As far as the final product, it really isn't any different from the normal salmon," said Elasri.

It is not any different because scientists are simply manipulating the genetic growth hormone salmon already have and making them produce it naturally year around, he said.

"The normal salmon produces the growth hormone only in the warm weather or warm waters," he added. "Then, it shuts it down. It does not produce it when the water is cold, and the reason for that is usually when the water is cold they don't have as much food so there is no need to grow."

But with scientists feeding them everyday in conditions that make the salmon produce its natural growth hormone, you get salmon that reach maturity in 16 to 18 months rather than the normal 30 months.

"This is really nothing new," said Elasri. "For thousands of years since we have had farming we have used selective breeding to basically generate animals that grow faster, grow bigger so that they have a higher yield."

According to Elasri the processed food we consume daily presents more of a concern.

"The food that is produced contains chemicals and antibiotics and things that I think in the long run is probably not ideal. Relatively speaking this modified salmon is probably less problematic than food that we've been eating all the time," said Elasri.

Professor Elasri says he believes the salmon is safe to eat and presents no environmental problems. If the FDA give the go-ahead, the salmon could be on your dinner plate within one to two years.

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