FDA Lifts Import Ban on Genetically Modified Salmon

Jan Cross
March 13, 2019

The Food and Drug Administration has lifted its import ban on a brand of genetically modified salmon after Congress blocked the fish from coming to USA until the agency finalized its labeling guidelines to inform consumers about what they are eating.

The U.S. FDA Commissioner, Scott Gottlieb stated that the changes bioengineered into the fish had been deemed both safe for the animal, for human consumption & would not impact the environment significantly as the fish are bred to be sterile & female, which theoretically eliminates the possibility of them breeding with wild salmon & contaminating natural salmon population. The salmon have been modified with DNA from other species of fish to allow them to grow roughly twice as fast as regular salmon.

However, in 2016, Congress directed FDA not to allow food that contains GE salmon into commerce until final GE labeling guidelines were in place.

The salmon, which has been dubbed by some as "Frankenfish", is the creation of Maynard, Massachusetts-based biotechnology company AquaBounty Technologies.

"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.

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"With Congress' enactment of the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard, 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. As was determined during the FDA's 2015 review, this fish is safe to eat, the genetic construct added to the fish's genome is safe for the animal, and the manufacturer's claim that it reaches a growth marker important to the aquaculture industry more rapidly than its non-GE farm-raised Atlantic salmon counterpart is confirmed", Gottlieb said in a statement. Salmon eggs could then be sent from the company's research and development facility in Canada, and would be harvested after about 18 months when they reach 10 pounds, she said. The FDA also studied the environmental impact of the genetically engineered fish and found that it "would not cause a significant impact on the USA environment". The fish is already available in limited qualities on the market in Canada, where labelling is discretionary and up to grocers, the Post added.

The FDA's move also comes despite a pending lawsuit filed by a coalition of consumer, environmental and fishing groups that are challenging the agency's approval.

"We are delighted that FDA has lifted the import alert, which will allow AquaBounty to begin producing and marketing AquAdvantage Salmon in the United States", said Sylvia Wulf, Chief Executive Officer of AquaBounty. According to the AP, AquaBounty says that it expects its IN farm to soon receive final certification, and the salmon will take about 18 months to grow to a harvest size of 5kg after they arrive.

Wulf told AP she doesn't expect the pending lawsuit filed by a coalition of consumer, environmental and fishing groups to affect the company's USA plans.

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