Published: Sep 20, 2010 7:06 PM EDT
Updated: Sep 20, 2010 3:43 PM EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) - Federal food regulators pondered Monday whether to say, for the first time, that it's OK to market a genetically engineered animal as safe for people to eat.

The Food and Drug Administration is holding two days of hearings on a request to market genetically modified salmon. Ron Stotish, CEO of AquaBounty, the Massachusetts company that made the marketing request, said at the meeting Monday that his company's fish product is safe and environmentally sustainable.

Critics, however, call the modified salmon "frankenfish" that could cause allergies in humans and the eventual decimation of the wild salmon population. An FDA advisory committee is reviewing the science of the genetically engineered fish this week and hearing such criticisms as the agency ponders approval.

The FDA has already said that the salmon, which grows twice as fast as its conventional "sisters," is as safe to eat as the traditional variety.

Whether the public will have an appetite for it is another matter. Genetic engineering is already widely used for crops, but the government until now has not considered allowing the consumption of modified animals. Although the potential benefits - and profits - are huge, many individuals have qualms about manipulating the genetic code of other living creatures.