Regulators clear path for genetically modified salmon

Regulators clear path for genetically modified salmon

The United States Food & Drug Administration, (FDA), has reportedly announced that the administration has lifted the import alert that was imposed on genetically engineered (GE) AquAdvantage salmon eggs developed by biotechnology firm, AquaBounty Technologies.

The Yurok ban came in the wake of the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decision on November 19 to approve genetically engineered salmon, dubbed "Frankenfish", as being fit for human consumption, in spite of massive public opposition to the decision by fishermen, Tribes, environmental organizations and public interest organizations. The salmon have been modified with DNA from other species of fish to allow them to grow roughly twice as fast as regular salmon.

The ban on the genetic fish, however, was imposed upon a directive given to the FDA by the U.S. Congress that asked the agency to block the import & sales of any foods that contained the fish until it issued appropriate labeling guidelines that informed consumers about the GE salmon in their food.

Genetically modified salmon are one step closer to reaching the dinner plates of American consumers.

The deactivation of the import alert means that AquAdvantage Salmon eggs can now be imported to the company's contained grow-out facility in IN to be raised into salmon for food.

Congress in 2016 directed the FDA not to allow food into the USA that contained genetically engineered salmon until the agency implemented superior labeling guidelines for informing people that certain foods contained the altered salmon.

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However, Wulf added that it has been hard to engage in sales discussions with companies since the ban, but she said limited quantities have been sold in Canada, where it doesn't have to be labeled as "genetically modified". The FDA, after years of review, had deemed food from the AquaAdvantage Salmon safe to eat in 2015 and said there is no biological difference between these salmon and nongenetically engineered salmon.

On Friday, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said because of the 2016 law and the USDA's standard, his agency "no longer has the authority to issue labelling guidance".

The U.S. fishing industry can't be expected to welcome this news since it is already challenged by dwindling salmon runs and limits on when and where the fish can legally be harvested. But nearly immediately after approval, an alert was issued by the FDA prohibiting importing and rearing until labelling regulations caught up. The company has said they expect final certifications for their Albany facility in the coming weeks. The original NADA only specified AquaBounty's facility on Prince Edward Island, Canada, where the salmon eggs are produced, and the company's grow-out facility in Panama. "We think a remedy in our case would stop sale of the fish before they're allowed to be sold", he adds.

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

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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