US regulators clear path for genetically modified salmon

Daniel Fowler
March 12, 2019

By using a growth hormone-regulating gene from Pacific Chinook salmon, along with a promoter gene from ocean pout, an eel-like marine animal, the company figured out a way to grow genetically modified Atlantic salmon year-round instead of only during the spring and summer.

The FDA says those standards are in place, so the salmon eggs can be imported to a facility in Indiana.

An import alert that prevented genetically engineered salmon from entering the United States has been lifted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Following years of health and safety assessments, the salmon became the first GM animal to be approved for human consumption by the FDA in 2015.

However, Congress blocked the FDA from allowing the fish to be sold in the United States until guidelines for disclosing that a food had been genetically modified were implemented.

In a statement, the FDA said the recently issued GMO food labeling from USDA supersede its authority over labels on biotech food. But in 2016, Congress asked the agency to block the salmon from being sold while lawmakers were agreeing on labeling guidelines aimed at informing consumers about the production of engineered foods.

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.

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"A loophole has now been created that will allow the first genetically modified animal engineered for human consumption to enter the US market: GMO Atlantic salmon", the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations executive director Noah Oppenheim told the SF Bay Area Independent Media Center.

A photo provided by AquaBountyTechnologies shows salmon eggs at the company's hatchery in Fortune, Prince Edward Island, Canada. But now that the FDA's alert has been "deactivated", AquaBounty will soon start importing the eggs to their growing facilities in Albany, Indiana.

In its 2015 finding, the FDA said the salmon is safe to eat and the genetic material added to the fish's genome is safe for the animal. However, they're also bred to be female and sterile, theoretically eliminating he possibility that they'll breed with wild salmon.

In a news release, AquaBounty's CEO Sylvia Wulf said the company is aiming to send the eggs to its plant in IN, where they will be hatched and grown to market size.

In late 2015, just after FDA approval of the GE salmon, activists said they had commitments from 10 USA grocery chains not to sell the salmon. Wulf said she doesn't expect the pending lawsuit to affect the company's USA plans.

"We think a remedy in our case would stop sale of the fish before they're allowed to be sold", George Kimbrell, a legal director for the Center for Food Safety, which is opposing the approval in court, told the AP.

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