FDA Lifts Import Restrictions on Genetically Engineered Salmon
FDA Lifts Import Restrictions on Genetically Engineered Salmon

FDA Lifts Import Restrictions on Genetically Engineered Salmon

The fast-growing fish can now be raised and sold in the US, although it’s likely to be some time before the product hits the market.

Mar 11, 2019
Catherine Offord

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A type of salmon that has been genetically modified to grow quickly is one step closer to the market, thanks to the US Food and Drug Administration’s decision to lift restrictions on the fish’s entry into the country. 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 US, and then sell them as food labeled “bioengineered,” although the company is likely to face further challenges before it can do so.

“AquAdvantage Salmon eggs can now be imported to the company’s contained grow-out facility in Indiana,” Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), says in a statement. “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.”

See “Opinion: Sizing Up GM Salmon

In 2015, AquAdvantage Salmon became the first genetically engineered animal intended for food to be approved by the FDA. 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. In response, the FDA implemented restrictions on the salmon’s import to the US. 

See “FDA OKs GM Salmon

Following the US Department of Agriculture’s issuance of labeling guidelines on so-called bioengineered foods at the end of 2018, “the FDA believes this Congressional mandate has been satisfied,” says Gottlieb in the statement. 

The news hasn’t been universally welcomed. George Kimbrell of the Center for Food Safety, one of several groups that have formed a coalition to sue the FDA over its approval of genetically engineered salmon, tells the Associated Press that there are environmental risks associated with the fish’s rearing in the US. 

See “Designer Livestock

While the salmon are bred to be sterile females, AquaBounty’s own research suggests that it would be difficult to guarantee all salmon are indeed sterile, he tells the AP, and there are concerns about the engineered fish breeding 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.

See “GM Salmon and Wild Fish Can Reproduce