Blended Atlantic salmon / Chinook salmon / ocean pout, anybody?
Shutterstock / Luiz Rocha
Blended Atlantic salmon / Chinook salmon / ocean pout, anybody?

What do you call a farmed Atlantic salmon with a Chinook salmon growth-hormone gene and a DNA splice from a cold-loving eel-like fish?

Tough to market.

Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Aldi, and other grocery chains that together run more than 2,000 stores across the U.S. announced this week that they would not sell AquaBounty Technologies’ AquAdvantage® Salmon, aka frankenfish, even if the Food and Drug Administration issues expected approvals.

From a press release put out by Friends of the Earth, which has been waging a campaign that helped convince the retailers to keep the freak fish off their shelves:

Stores that have committed to not offer the salmon or other genetically engineered seafood include the national retailers Trader Joe’s (367 stores), Aldi (1,230 stores), Whole Foods (325 stores in US); regional chains such as Marsh Supermarkets (93 stores in Indiana and Ohio), PCC Natural Markets (9 stores in Washington State); and co-ops in Minnesota, New York, California and Kansas.

“We applaud these retailers for listening to the vast majority of their customers who want sustainable, natural seafood for their families. Now it’s time for other food retailers, including Walmart, Costco and Safeway, to follow suit and let their customers know they will not be selling unlabeled, poorly studied genetically engineered seafood,” said Eric Hoffman, food & technology policy campaigner with Friends of the Earth.

The AquAdvantage® fish is a genetically engineered Atlantic salmon. Added to its genetic makeup is DNA taken from Chinook salmon that triggers fasters growth, particularly during the first two years of life. Because Atlantic salmon naturally grow only during the warmer months, scientists also inserted some DNA from the ocean pout, an eel-resembling creature that revels in the cold. The genetic switch from the ocean pout causes the salmon to churn out growth hormones year-round, further accelerating the speed at which it grows. (The ® means that you are not allowed to sell your own genetically engineered freak fish under the name “AquAdvantage.”)

Many Americans are apparently uncomfortable with this type of genetic manipulation, for some reason.

A San Jose Mercury News reporter stood outside a Trader Joe’s outlet on Tuesday and asked shoppers what they thought about the company’s decision. They seemed to like it.

“It definitely makes me want to shop here,” said Linda Terra of San Jose as her husband, Rod, loaded up their groceries.

The couple tries to eat seafood, especially salmon, at least twice a week.

“I wish everybody would label everything,” Rod Terra said. “What could it hurt?”

Well, Rod, maybe it would hurt the frankenfish’s feelings?