The US Food and Drug Administration made a landmark announcement this morning: It has approved the first genetically modified animal for human consumption in the US.
The initial application for AquAdvantage Salmon, which can reach the same size as conventional salmon in half the time, was filed in 1996. Today (Nov. 19), the FDA announced that it has approved the fish for consumption in the US, although they can only be raised in “land-based, contained hatchery tanks in two specific facilities in Canada and Panama.” The fish cannot be bred or farmed in the US, and if they are raised in locations outside of those two facilities, they cannot be sold in the US.
“The FDA has thoroughly analyzed and evaluated the data and information submitted by AquaBounty Technologies regarding AquAdvantage Salmon and determined that they have met the regulatory requirements for approval, including that food from the fish is safe to eat,” said Bernadette Dunham, director of the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, in the announcement.
Although the FDA is also providing guidance documents to help food producers label any products made with this genetically engineered salmon, the guidelines are voluntary. It is also accepting public comments beginning on November 23 about labeling requirements. The announcement did not include information about when the fish could become available to consumers in the US.
AquAdvantage Salmon has faced serious opposition from environmentalists who worry that the farmed fish will escape their enclosed farms and outcompete natural salmon in the wild, thus potentially driving the already dwindling species out of existence. The FDA addresses these concerns, saying that the mega-salmon will not have a significant environmental impact “because of the multiple and redundant measures being taken to contain the fish and prevent their escape and establishment in the environment.”
Environmental groups, however, were not persuaded. “Food & Water Watch will be examining all options to stop this controversial and unnecessary GMO fish from reaching the marketplace. We urge President Obama to overturn FDA’s approval and stop GMO salmon from reaching consumers’ dinner plates,” the organization said in a statement this morning.