The FDA has approved an Indiana company’s genetically altered salmon. It may be available at restaurants next year, but you may be unaware it’s being served.

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AquaAdvantage Salmon is the first genetically modified animal approved for human consumption in the United States. Getty Images

Genetically modified salmon grown in Indiana may be offered in cafeterias and restaurants by late next year.

The new salmon, engineered to grow at a much faster rate, requires 25 percent less feed and is produced inland to protect native fish populations and marine ecosystems, according to officials at AquaBounty, the company that produces the fish.

The salmon is already legal for sale in Canada. Michele Henry, a Toronto-based food writer, described the genetically modified fish as “buttery, light, juicy. Just as Atlantic salmon should be.”

But it’s not just Atlantic salmon.

The product, called AquAdvantage Salmon, is the first genetically modified animal approved for human consumption in the United States.

“Consumers who want to eat genetically engineered salmon when it’s available shouldn’t be concerned,” Gregory Jaffe, biotechnology project director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, told Healthline.

“We have a number of genetically engineered crops that have been grown for a number of years in the U.S. and there’s no evidence that any of those have any food safety, nutritional, or human health concerns,” he said.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates genetically modified (GM) salmon as a “new animal drug” under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

While not exactly appetizing, Jaffe said the classification has “benefits including very strong safety standards.”

Safety standards help current consumers, but as Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RDN, author of “Skinny Liver,” points out, “We don’t have specifics yet or long-term data on the harms of GMOs.”

“We need more time to determine if a GM fish will impact health positively or negatively,” she told Healthline.

The genetically modified salmon are 99.99986 percent Atlantic salmon with a dash of gene promoter from ocean pout and a growth hormone gene from Chinook salmon.

“The genetic modification component entails extracting a growth hormone gene from Chinook salmon and inserting it into the genetic sequence of Atlantic salmon (the type that is generally farmed for sale in Canada) so that it grows more quickly and is ready for sale in less time,” Andy De Santis, RD, a weight loss specialist from Toronto, Canada, told Healthline.

Modifying a gene means mixed things for experts.

“There really isn’t another animal in the U.S. in a similar situation to compare this,” Kirkpatrick said. “Since the growth here is caused by genetic variation, we can’t tell for sure how that will impact the nutrient density.”

“It’s still too early to tell if having GMOs in a food will make that food healthier or less healthy overall,” she added.

“The FDA reached the conclusion that there’s no food safety concerns or human health concerns and no nutritional differences between genetically engineered salmon and its conventional counterpart,” Jaffe said.

But this doesn’t mean that all genetically modified technologies are void of concerns. Jaffe cautions that this technology should be looked at on a case-by-case basis.

“So while this isn’t an ultra-hazardous technology or process and will result in many beneficial products, each future product has to be looked at and assessed individually,” he said.

While “consumer suspicion remains high,” said Kirkpatrick, “Studies show that the concerns that many individuals may pose may not be grounded in science.”

But that may not count for much, either. After they reach market size, consumers could be eating GM salmon in cafeterias and restaurants without knowing.

“Restaurants are exempt from the mandatory disclosure, and that’s common,” Jaffe said.

Only manufacturers of the final food product are required to disclose if the salmon is genetically modified.

“Restaurants are exempt from virtually all federal labeling requirements. You can go into a restaurant today and they don’t tell you where your chicken came from or what was in the chicken dish in terms of ingredients,” Jaffe said.

However, it’s not like consumers will be eating GM salmon exclusively. It’s actually quite the opposite, according to Jaffe.

“You’ll actually have to search hard to find genetically engineered salmon,” he said. “Some information gives the impression that you’ll have to try to avoid genetically engineered salmon. It’s the opposite.”

“If you want it, you’ll have to look hard to find it. We’re talking about a very small quantity — a drop in the bucket of all the salmon that’s consumed,” Jaffe said.