Friday, November 20, 2015

FDA Approves Genetically Engineered Salmon

Written by Stephen Kenney

On Thursday November 19th, U.S. health regulators decided that AquAdvantage salmon is as safe to eat as any non-genetically engineered (GE) Atlantic salmon.  This approval was the first such approval for an animal whose DNA had been scientifically modified.  The FDA also will not require companies to label the genetically modified food.

AquAdvantage Salmon is a product of AquaBountyTechnologies.  The AquAdvantage Salmon are Atlantic salmon that reach market size more quickly than non-GE farm-raised Atlantic Salmon.  AquaBounty claims that the salmon can grow to market size in half the time required for conventional salmon.  The genetically modified fish is an Atlantic salmon with a Pacific salmon gene for faster growth and a gene from the eel-like ocean pout that promotes year round growth.

Five years ago, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first began the evaluation of GE salmon.  The Salmon can only be raised in land-based hatchery tanks in two specific facilities that are located in Canada and Panama.  The FDA ultimately approved the safety of the fish because the data demonstrated that the “inserted genes remained stable over several generations of fish, that food from the GE salmon is safe to eat by humans and animals, that the genetic engineering is safe for the fish, and the salmon meets the sponsor’s (AquaBounty) claim about faster growth.”  The FDA also assessed the environmental impacts of the fish and found that there would not be a significant impact on the environment because of the containment measures that will be put into place at the hatcheries.  The agency also found that there is not a risk of the fish reproducing with wild fish because the GE fish are sterile.

Activist groups and grocers are not convinced that the GE fish is a safe alternative.  Activist groups are concerned that the genetically modified food may pose a risk to the environment or public health.  Kroger, a national grocery chain, said that it has “no intention of sourcing or selling genetically engineered salmon.”  Trader Joe's and Whole Foods Market Inc. also do not intend to carry the modified fish.

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