FDA allows genetically engineered ‘Frankenfish’ salmon to be imported to US

Pablo Tucker
March 13, 2019

With the ban lifted, salmon eggs from AquAdvantage, a company that genetically modifies Atlantic salmon, can be imported into the company's contained growth facility in IN to be raised into salmon for food.

In 2015, AquAdvantage Salmon became the first genetically engineered animal intended for food to be approved by the FDA. AquaAdvantage Salmon contains intentional genomic alterations (IGAs) and is genetically engineered to reach market size more rapidly than its non-GE, farm-raised Atlantic salmon counterpart.

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.

The salmon, which has been dubbed by some as "Frankenfish", is the creation of Maynard, Massachusetts-based biotechnology company AquaBounty Technologies.


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.

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.

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

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". 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.


In the statement, FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb explains why they lifted the band and the original findings that the salmon would not cause a significant impact on the USA environment. However, as of now, only a limited number of the genetically modified salmons are available in Canadian markets. "FDA's actions will allow for production and sale to begin here in the USA, bringing opportunity for investment in rural America, creating American jobs, while also reducing dependence on seafood imports", Wulf said in a statement.

As the Associated Press reported, however, a "coalition of consumer, environmental and fishing groups" filed a lawsuit asking for the FDA's approval of the fish to be overturned.

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.

"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.


But Kimbrell, of the Center for Food Safety, said the company's own tests have shown it's not 100 percent certain the fish would be sterile, and that concerns about it getting in the environment would grow if the company's operations were to expand.

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