Published: Wed, March 13, 2019
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

Import Ban On Genetically Modified Salmon In U.S. Lifted

Import Ban On Genetically Modified Salmon In U.S. Lifted

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has lifted a ban on genetically-engineered salmon imports, allowing the company AquaBounty to export eggs it is producing at its facility in Bay Fortune, P.E.I.

The fish first won FDA approval in 2015, which was the first approval of a genetically engineered (GE) animal intended for food use by the agency. 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. However, in 2016, US Congress directed it not to allow any food that contained GE salmon to be sold until it had issued final labelling guidelines for informing consumers of the GE salmon content in food.

The next steps for AquaBounty Technologies is to have its Albany, Indiana recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) facility certified by state authorities and then begin production, Sylvia Wulf, the company's new CEO, told Undercurrent News (registration required).

By using a growth hormone-regulating gene from Pacific Chinook salmon, along with a promoter gene from ocean pout, an eel-like marine animal, the company figured out a way to grow genetically modified Atlantic salmon year-round instead of only during the spring and summer.

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.

Now passed, the salmon eggs come from a company facility in Prince Edward Island, Canada.

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In its 2015 finding, the FDA said the salmon is safe to eat and the genetic material added to the fish's genome is safe for the animal.

However, Wulf added that it has been hard to engage in sales discussions with companies since the ban, but she said limited quantities have been sold in Canada, where it doesn't have to be labeled as "genetically modified". The FDA also studied the environmental impact of the genetically engineered fish and found that it "would not cause a significant impact on the USA environment". According to the AP, AquaBounty says that it expects its IN farm to soon receive final certification, and the salmon will take about 18 months to grow to a harvest size of 5kg after they arrive.

The Food and Drug Administration announced Friday that it is lifting an import alert that stopped genetically engineered salmon from entering the US. The fish is already available in limited qualities on the market in Canada, where labelling is discretionary and up to grocers, the Post added. The Center for Food Safety and other interest groups are suing the FDA in order to prevent the salmon being raised and sold.

"We think a remedy in our case would stop sale of the fish before they're allowed to be sold", Kimbrell told AP.

While the salmon are bred to be sterile females, AquaBounty's own research suggests that it would be hard to guarantee all salmon are indeed sterile, he tells the AP, and there are concerns about the engineered fish breeding with wild salmon.

In a statement to FOX Business, AquaBounty said if all goes well, it plans to have its first harvest by the Fall of 2020.

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