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FDA OKs Import of Genetically Engineered Salmon

13 March 2019

The United States Food & Drug Administration, (FDA), has reportedly announced that the administration has lifted the import alert that was imposed on genetically engineered (GE) AquAdvantage salmon eggs developed by biotechnology firm, AquaBounty Technologies.

Additionally, as part of its approval, the FDA also analysed the potential environmental impact that an approval of the AquAdvantage Salmon application would have on the USA environment and published its final Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact in November 2015. AquaAdvantage Salmon contains intentional genomic alterations (IGAs) and is genetically engineered to reach market size more rapidly than its non-GE, farm-raised Atlantic salmon counterpart.

"A loophole has now been created that will allow the first genetically modified animal engineered for human consumption to enter the USA market: GMO Atlantic salmon", the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations executive director Noah Oppenheim told the SF Bay Area Independent Media Center. The move, announced on Friday (March 8), will allow AquaBounty to import AquAdvantage salmon eggs from its research and development center in Canada, grow them in the U.S., and then sell them as food labeled "bioengineered", although the company is likely to face further challenges before it can do so.

"With Congress" enactment of the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) was charged with implementing a mandatory standard for disclosing whether a food is "bioengineered' and FDA was divested of its authority over voluntary labeling to indicate the presence of GE content in human foods", according to Gottlieb. The company is also growing genetically modified salmon at its facility on Prince Edward Island, Canada, and is setting up operations in Brazil, Argentina, Israel and China. The FDA, after years of review, had deemed food from the AquaAdvantage Salmon safe to eat in 2015 and said there is no biological difference between these salmon and nongenetically engineered salmon. However, as of now, only a limited number of the genetically modified salmons are available in Canadian markets.

Citing the finalization of labeling guidelines, Congress had initially directed the FDA to block the import & sales of any foods that contained the fish.

The genetically modified salmon are raised in tanks and bred to be female and sterile, measures created to address any fears that they might get into the environment and breed with wild fish.

As the Associated Press reported, however, a "coalition of consumer, environmental and fishing groups" filed a lawsuit asking for the FDA's approval of the fish to be overturned.

The FDA may be using the USDA's final labeling rule to justify lifting the import alert, but this move could backfire if sufficient numbers of consumers become aware that AquAdvantage Salmon is genetically engineered.

However, they're also bred to be female and sterile, theoretically eliminating he possibility that they'll breed with wild salmon. "We think a remedy in our case would stop sale of the fish before they're allowed to be sold", he adds. Aquabounty chief Sylvia Wulf told the AP she expected certification for an IN growing facility IN "weeks" and could receive eggs soon afterward, but it would take about 18 months for the salmon to reach their target weight.

In a statement to FOX Business, AquaBounty said if all goes well, it plans to have its first harvest by the Fall of 2020.

FDA OKs Import of Genetically Engineered Salmon