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Bioengineered Salmon Has Some Consumers Smelling Something Fishy

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LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Whether raised on a farm or fished from the wild, salmon is a popular protein choice for consumers — especially those who want a health-conscious diet.

Some Californians are concerned about a genetically-engineered salmon that will soon be arriving on store shelves. The FDA says the taste is no different, but the fish, which is made in a lab, might not be labeled.

Registered dietician Katie Valdes serves salmon to her family weekly, but says she’s anxious about eating the genetically-modified fish that some are even calling “Frankenfish”.

“The thought of something being man-made in a laboratory scares me. I would not want to eat it nor would I serve it to my kids,” Valdes told CBS2’s Sibila Vargas.

Scientists create the hybrid by crossing Chinook salmon with a larger, eel-like ocean pout. AquaBounty Technologies, the company behind the engineered fish, says they grow twice as fast, too.

However, many consumers argue they should be able to choose between natural fish natural or something that’s been tampered with in a laboratory.

Consumers Union’s Dr. Michael Hansen is now asking for proper labeling.

“The fish probably won’t be labeled and so people would have no idea at the store if they were getting engineered fish or not,” he said.

Dr. William Hallman, who studies the public reaction to engineered foods for Rutgers University, says labels could affect sales.

“They hear genetic modification and it sounds, frankly, pretty scary. And our research and the research of others show that if that product has that label consumers are less likely to buy it,” Hallman said.

Patty Lovera, director of Food and Water Watch, thinks bio-engineered foods are getting out of control.

“This is crossing lines that you can really only cross in a lab. This wouldn’t happen in a natural system,” Lovera said.

FDA spokesperson Morgan Liscinsky issued the following statement to CBS2:

“We recognize and appreciate the strong interest that many consumers have in knowing whether a food was produced using bio-engineering. The FDA supports voluntary labeling that provides consumers with this information.”

Jon Kagawa has been running Fish King, a family-owned business in Glendale, for 40 years.

Vargas asked if this new salmon is something he would offer to customers.

“Right now, I’d have to say no,” he said. “I’m sure the FDA’s going to be taking a very conservative view on trying to introduce this to the population, but I think that right now everybody’s just going to sit on their hands a little bit and just wait and be patient.”

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