GE Salmon Cleared for U.S. Dinner Plates

Cristina Cross
March 13, 2019

"With Congress" enactment of the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) was charged with implementing a mandatory standard for disclosing whether a food is "bioengineered' and FDA was divested of its authority over voluntary labeling to indicate the presence of GE content in human foods", according to Gottlieb.

The FDA will now allow AquaAdvantage Salmon eggs, produced by AquaBounty, to be imported to the company's land-based facility in IN and raised into salmon for food.

Congress said rules on how genetically modified food is labeled had to be implemented first.

By lifting the alert, the FDA is allowing AquAdvantage Salmon eggs to be imported to a facility in IN where the eggs can be grown into fish for food. However, Congress blocked the FDA the following year from allowing the fish to be sold in the U.S. They required it to finalize its labeling guidelines alerting customers that the fish has been altered.

"A loophole has now been created that will allow the first genetically modified animal engineered for human consumption to enter the USA market: GMO Atlantic salmon", the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations executive director Noah Oppenheim told the SF Bay Area Independent Media Center. But nearly immediately after approval, an alert was issued by the FDA prohibiting importing and rearing until labelling regulations caught up. "As FDA notes in this announcement, our salmon was approved by the agency over three years ago based upon a very comprehensive science-based review process, which established that our salmon was safe, nutritious, and environmentally sound and met all other regulatory requirements".

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.

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"We think a remedy in our case would stop sale of the fish before they're allowed to be sold", said George Kimbrell, legal director for the Center for Food Safety, one of the groups suing the FDA.

"Approximately 350,000 tons of Atlantic salmon are consumed in the United States with more than 95% of it imported". A biotech trade group said the fish, which developers say grows twice as fast as as conventional Atlantic salmon on 25% less feed, will "contribute to a more sustainable food supply". As the Washington Post noted in 2017, the fish are created to be exclusively female as well as sterile, though the process is not entirely effective, and AquaBounty's Prince Edward Island facility is surrounded by salt water, where it believes the eggs can not survive.

Additionally, as part of its approval, the FDA also analysed the potential environmental impact that an approval of the AquAdvantage Salmon application would have on the U.S. environment and published its final Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact in November 2015.

AquaBounty CEO Sylvia Wulf said the company expects to get a final certification for its Albany, Indiana, growing facility in the coming weeks.

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 US plans.

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