Posted on Apr 18, 2019, 9 p.m.
Ban on a brand of genetically modified salmon after Congress blocked the frankenfish from import to the USA until the agency finished labeling guidelines to inform consumers about what they are eating has been lifted by the US FDA.
The genetically modified fish are the creation of Massachusetts based biotech AquaBounty Technologies. Using a growth hormone regulating gene from Pacific Chinook salmon along with a promoter gene from the eel like marine animal ocean pout the company figured out how to grow genetically modified Atlantic salmon that can be harvested year round instead of only during the spring and summer.
The frankenfish won FDA approval in 2015 which was the first approval of a genetically engineered animal intended for food use, Congress then blocked the FDA from allowing the fish to be sold in the USA until finalization of labeling guidelines to alert consumer that the fish had been genetically altered/engineered; later that year Congress went on to also pass a law that directed the USDA to set national mandatory standards for disclosing bioengineered foods.
The FDA announced they had taken important steps to provide labeling guidelines related to the GE salmon and is officially deactivating the 2106 import alert that prevented the salmon from entering the USA.
"With the deactivation of the import alert, AquAdvantage Salmon eggs can now be imported to the company’s contained grow-out facility in Indiana to be raised into salmon for food. 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." adding that they had analyzed potential impacts of the frankenfish would have on the environment and found no “significant impact.”
Not all are happy about this deactivation that comes amidst a lawsuit filed by a coalition of groups challenging the FDA approval. According to George Kimbrell of the Center for Food Safety the company’s own testing shows that it is not 100% certain these frankenfish would be sterile, and concerns about them getting into the environment would grow if the company’s operations were to expand.
AquaBounty expects to get final certification for their growing location facility in the next few weeks, and from then it will take around a year and a half to grow fish to a harvest size of 10 pounds after they arrive. Since the ban limited quantities have been sold in Canada, if all goes to plan the company plans to have its first harvest by Fall 2020.
“Approximately 350,000 tons of Atlantic salmon are consumed in the United States with more than 95% of it imported. FDA’s actions will allow for production and sale to begin here in the U.S., bringing opportunity for investment in rural America, creating American jobs, while also reducing dependence on seafood imports," CEO Sylvia Wulf said in a statement.
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