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FDA calls meeting to consider genetically engineered salmon

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 27-Aug-2010
Last updated on 27-Aug-2010 at 12:48 GMT

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has said its Veterinary Medicine Advisory Committee will meet on September 19 and 20 to discuss the possible commercialization of genetically engineered salmon.

AquaBounty of Waltham, Massachusetts says it has developed salmon that have been genetically modified to reach market size in half the time of traditional salmon – a trait that could help feed a growing global population and protect dwindling fish stocks, the company claims.

If the Veterinary Medicine Advisory Committee (VMAC) decides that the fish are fit for human consumption, it would be the first animal produced through genetic engineering to be approved. Some environmentalists and scientists have said they see this as a watershed case, with the result likely to either pave the way for further genetic engineering of food animals or discourage its use.

The VMAC has said it will discuss the fishing and disease pressures on wild fish stocks; the genetics and farming of Atlantic salmon around the world; and the potential risks of GE fish, including possible mitigation strategies.

“This is welcome and exciting news for the Company as we near the end of the detailed and necessary process to receive regulatory approval for our AquAdvantage Salmon,” President and CEO of AquaBounty Dr. Ronald Stotish said in a statement.

“The meeting will provide an opportunity for the public to understand how the application of our technology will enable the safe and sustainable production of high quality fish. We believe the economic and environmental benefits of our salmon will very effectively help to meet the demand for food from the growing world population.”

The FDA said it could not estimate how long it might take to review public comments following next month’s meeting. Information on the VMAC meeting is available here .

Labeling considerations

After the committee convenes, the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition has said it will lead a public hearing on September 21 to consider the legal issues around labeling of AquAvantage salmon.

At the moment, foods produced through genetic modification are not required to be labeled as such in the United States, and the FDA’s position has been that labeling should not “suggest or imply that GM/GE foods are in any way different from other foods”.

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