The boss of a Massachusetts-based firm attempting to commercialize genetically engineered farmed salmon has accused a small group of senators opposing the move of “willfully ignoring science-based research” and spreading “misinformed paranoia”.
His comments came as eight senators signed a letter to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) urging commissioner Margaret Hamburg to halt the regulatory approval process of AquaBounty Technologies’ AquAdvantage Salmon.
AquAdvantage Atlantic salmon includes a gene from the faster-growing Pacific Chinook salmon, which enables it to reach maturity twice as quickly as normal Atlantic salmon, and consume 25 percent less food.
In a statement defending the technology, AquaBounty chief executive Ronald Stotish said the FDA had spent 15 years scrutinizing the fish and concluded that it was “exactly the same as any other Atlantic salmon and, therefore, safe for consumption”.
No threat to the environment
Meanwhile, his AquAdvantage Salmon would be sterile and grown in self-contained inland tanks, posing no threat to the environment, he claimed.
"We remain confident that the more deliberative body of the Senate will refrain from interfering in the 15-year scientific review by the FDA.
“The facts about the safety and the environmental benefits of the fish have been made fully public by the FDA. It would be a dangerous precedent to react to a handful of legislators' misinformed paranoia."
He added: “The real waste of tax-payer dollars would be to abandon the important American principle of science-based regulation, responding instead to economic protectionist fears or subjective and emotional judgments.
“This is an issue greater than our application, an issue of American leadership in technology, innovation, and science based regulation."
Should genetically engineered fish be labeled as such?
While genetically engineered (GE) fish is not yet approved for sale in the US, the California Assembly Health Committee recently voted in favor of a proposal calling for all GE fish sold in the state to be clearly labeled as such, should they become available.
“Knowing whether our salmon is genetically engineered is important for a host of reasons, including risks to our native salmon species, and allowing consumers to make dietary choices consistent with concerns they may have for the environment, food safety, and religiously or ethically based dietary restrictions,” Assemblyman Huffman said.
West Coast Director of the Center for Food Safety Rebecca Spector said: “The FDA has indicated that it will not require these GE fish to be labeled once they are approved.
“As such, it is incumbent on the California State legislature, starting with the Health Committee, to let the people of California make informed choices about the food they eat by requiring the labeling of GE fish sold in California.”
GM fish and sustainability
AquAdvantage salmon is more sustainable than current farmed salmon, because it would enable the production of more fish with less feed, according to AquaBounty.
The salmon would be grown as sterile, all-female populations in land-based facilities and could not escape or reproduce in the wild, claims the firm.
*Look out for FoodNavigator-USA.com on Monday, when we will run an interview with Ronald Stotish