FDA Gives Tentative Approval to Genetically Engineered Salmon

Frankenfish could threaten wild salmon stocks


Khushi Desai, Earthjustice, (202) 745-5224

Today the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a draft environmental assessment (EA) finding genetically engineered (GE) salmon pose no risk to the environment. The GE salmon is the first ever GE fish intended for human consumption in the U.S. The FDA made the finding in spite of a petition from conservation groups requesting that it complete a comprehensive environmental impact statement on the risks GE fish could present to the natural marine environment.

Two salmon of the same age. The larger salmon has been genetically engineered to grow twice as fast as normal salmon. (AquaBounty)

Earthjustice filed that petition in May 2011 on behalf of Ocean Conservancy, Friends of the Earth, Center for Food Safety, Food & Water Watch, the Center for International Environmental Law, and Greenpeace.

“FDA’s narrow analysis fails to seriously consider the risks these genetically engineered fish could pose to our natural environment,” said Earthjustice attorney Khushi Desai. “If these fish mix with wild salmon, the ecological harm could be devastating.”

After more than a decade of behind-the-scenes work with the GE fish sponsor, AquaBounty Technologies, the FDA announced last fall that it intended to approve AquaBounty’s application. In response, the public sent over 400,000 comments to the FDA opposing the “Frankenfish” and demanding mandatory labeling of any GE fish approved for sale to US consumers.

Materials submitted to the FDA by the owner of the GE salmon, AquaBounty, raise serious, unanswered concerns regarding potential destruction of wild salmon populations. These concerns are significant enough to warrant a more thorough environmental impact statement, as required under the National Environmental Policy Act.

In the draft EA released today, the FDA accepts AquaBounty’s representation that no fish will escape, survive, or reproduce in the wild—even though that type of security cannot be guaranteed.

Conservationists take the company at its word that this is just their first step in a broader plan to produce these GE fish and others like them around the world.

Desai of Earthjustice said, “This genetically engineered fish puts the entire U.S. salmon industry at risk, and most importantly it could threaten the very survival of our native salmon populations.”

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