WASHINGTON, Oct. 19 (UPI) -- Environmentalists are saying that U.S. approval of genetically modified salmon can be thwarted on the retail level, if not on the regulatory one.
As U.S. officials have signaled the salmon could be the first genetically modified animal approved for consumption, environmental groups are attacking the plan from afar, attempting to get retailers to pledge not to sell the fish, The Washington Post reported Saturday.
"The goal is to make sure there is not an available market for genetically engineered seafood," said Dana Perls, a campaigner with Friends of the Earth, which links environmental groups together on a global scale.
"People don't want it, and markets are going to follow what people want," Perls said.
While the Food and Drug Administration appears poised to approve the genetically modified salmon, Target, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe's have already pledged to not sell the product.
Environment groups are looking to expand on that, lobbying Krogers, the country's largest grocery chain, to follow suit.
A spokeswoman for Safeway, the country's second largest grocery chain said there were not plans there to carry GMO salmon.
The modified salmon -- GMO means genetically modified organism -- includes a growth hormone from the Chinook salmon and a gene from an eel-like fish called an ocean pout.
It grows twice as fast as the standard salmon, the Post said.
Massachusetts company AquaBounty Technologies applied for regulatory approval of the GMO salmon in 1995.
While environment groups claim the fish is not safe to eat and would wreck havoc on the environment if it was ever released, AquaBounty Chief Executive Officer Ron Stotish said the GMO fish could take pressure off wild fisheries already in trouble from overfishing.
He accused environment groups of fear-mongering.
"What we've been seeing for a long time is dishonesty, fabrication and malicious acts from these groups. ... It's really frustrating," Stotish said in an interview. "What these groups are trying to do is prevent people from having the right to choose. Frankly, I think that's wrong," he said.