Genetically modified salmon was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as safe for human consumption on Thursday.
Environmental and food safety groups are disappointed with the FDA’s decision and have vowed to fight the agency in court.
A senior scientist with the Consumers Union, said: “And it’s even more concerning that the FDA chose not to require any form of labeling, making it extremely difficult for consumers to know if the salmon is GE or not.” Consumers advocacy groups are concerned that the new genetically modified fish is not even labelled as such: “And it’s even more concerning that the FDA chose not to require any form of labeling, making it extremely difficult for consumers to know if the salmon is GE or not.”
Environmental campaigners are worried that the “Frankenfish GMO salmon” could eventually escape into the environment and modify the whole food chain in the process.
AquaBounty salmon are genetically modified to be full size in half the time it takes normal salmon. In 18 months they are the same size as their three year old ancestors, ready for the supermarket shelf and eventually the dinner table.
This new kind of fast-growing salmon was actually created 25 years ago by Massachusetts-based AquaBounty Technologies. A new gene was inserted into fertilized salmon eggs — it boosted production of a fish growth hormone. The result: A fish that grows twice as fast as its conventional, farm-raised counterpart.
AquaBounty has been trying to get government approval to sell its fish ever since. Five years ago, the FDA’s scientific advisers concluded that the genetically modified fish, known as AquaAdvantage salmon, is safe to eat and won’t harm the environment.
Alison Van Eenennaam, a biotechnology specialist at the University of California, Davis, who was part of that scientific evaluation, says it wasn’t a hard decision. “Basically, nothing in the data suggested that these fish were in any way unsafe or different to the farm-raised salmon,” she says.
The FDA now is giving the salmon a green light. In a statement, the agency said that the data indicated “that food from the GE salmon is safe to eat by humans and animals” and “that the genetic engineering is safe for the fish.” It’s the first genetically modified animal approved for human consumption.
The FDA also says there’s no reason why the fish needs to be labeled as different from any other salmon in the supermarket. Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, decried that decision. “We are deeply disappointed with the FDA’s decision to approve the AquaAdvantage salmon,” Michael Hansen, senior scientist with Consumers Union, said in a statement. “And it’s even more concerning that the FDA chose not to require any form of labeling, making it extremely difficult for consumers to know if the salmon is GE or not.”
The FDA is requiring AquaBounty to take precautions to make sure the fish don’t get into the ocean, where they might compete with — or interbreed with — wild salmon. Critics of FDA approval for the salmon have repeatedly raised such concerns. AquaBounty says that the likelihood of its fish escaping is “virtually impossible,” as Dave Conley, the company’s director of corporate communications, told us this summer.
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