In a move sure to bring the arguments over GMOs back to the forefront, the Food and Drug Administration on Thursday gave approval to a specific breed of genetically modified salmon — the first genetically modified animal to ever be approved by the agency. AquaBounty Technologies first submitted the concept for approval in 1995, however the FDA took the past two decades to deliberate the salmon’s safety and potential effects on the environment.
Officials said in a letter to AquaBounty president and CEO Ronald Stotish that it found no safety issues or negative environmental effects. Furthermore, the FDA has determined that the so-called “AquaAdvantage Salmon” is safe to eat, a statement sure to stoke the ire of anti-GMO activists. There are some conditions on the approval however, including a requirement that the GMO salmon must be kept in inland storage tanks.
So what exactly is an AquaAdvantage Salmon? According to the company’s website, it’s a genetic cross between Atlantic and Chinook breeds. The DNA of the fish is further modified to give it the capability to grow to full size in half the time it takes traditional Atlantic salmon to do so. AquaBounty further argues that its fish require a quarter less feed due to their shorter maturation period, and have less of a carbon footprint because the fish are raised in the US and have a shorter trip to market.
What may concern some is the lack of any requirement to label AquaBounty’s salmon as genetically modified. The FDA did not find any differences between traditional salmon and AquaBounty’s, so the company will not have to label it as such. “Because the data and information evaluated show that AquAdvantage Salmon is not materially different from other Atlantic salmon, the FDA has determined that no additional labeling of food from AquaAdvantage Salmon is required,” the FDA says on its website.
That isn’t enough for anti-GMO activists. Center for Food Safety director Andrew Kimbrell says that his group plans to file suit in order to block the approval.
“The review process by FDA was inadequate, failed to fully examine the likely impacts of the salmon’s introduction, and lacked a comprehensive analysis. This decision sets a dangerous precedent, lowering the standards of safety in this country,” he argues. Kimbrell further says the agency did not act in the best interests of the American public, and ignored research that called many of AquaBounty’s claims into question.