Consumer groups petition FDA to assess GE salmon as food additive

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Atlantic salmon Genetic engineering Dna Food and drug administration

Consumer groups petition FDA to assess GE salmon as food additive
Consumer groups have petitioned the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to alter the process by which it assesses the safety of AquaBounty’s fast-growing genetically engineered (GE) salmon.

Food & Water Watch, Consumers Union, and the Center for Food Safety signed a petition​ asking the FDA to assess the salmon as a food additive, rather than as a new veterinary drug, as the agency has so far been doing.

The fish, developed by Massachusetts-based AquaBounty Technologies, is Atlantic salmon given the growth hormone gene of the faster-growing Pacific salmon, along with DNA from the eel-like ocean pout. The company claims that the resulting AquAvantage salmon reaches maturity at twice the rate of normal Atlantic salmon, and requires 25 percent less food.

This is the first time that the FDA has considered the safety of genetic engineering in animals intended for human consumption, and it has no specific framework for doing so. Therefore the GE process is being assessed by its Veterinary Medicine Advisory Committee through its animal drug approval procedure.

George Kimbrell, Senior Attorney for the Center for Food Safety said: “FDA’s choice to allow the first proposed transgenic animal for food to somehow only be review as a drug is contrary to law, science and common sense. Public health and transparency should be championed, not skirted, particularly when contemplating such an unprecedented approval.”

The groups’ petition claims that although Atlantic salmon is recognized as safe, the genetic modification process renders AquaBounty’s salmon significantly different, and it – and its components – therefore should be assessed as a new food additive.

AquaBounty told FoodNavigator-USA in an emailed statement that the petition was an attempt to “delay and undermine” the approval of any genetically modified food.

“The New Animal Drug regulatory process is the result of the government's more than fifteen years research into the best possible and most transparent method to regulate transgenic animal applications,” ​it said. “It considers safety to the animal, safety of the animal as food, and safety to the environment. It is far more rigorous than the food additive process or GRAS processes which primarily look at food safety.”

It added that an unintended consequence of consumer groups’ efforts could be that the growth of the technology is driven overseas.

It added: “Currently, the US imports 95% of the Atlantic salmon consumed. Approval of AquAdvantage could signal America's leadership in this technology, enabling production of Atlantic salmon in the United States, reducing our dependence upon foreign imports, and providing much needed food security and economic benefits.”

This is not the first time the FDA’s method for assessing the salmon has been questioned. In September 2010, 11 senators signed a letter to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg urging the agency to find another way to assess the safety of GE salmon.

And in a parallel move, 24 members of the House of Representatives signed a similar letter to Hamburg asking the FDA to halt the approval process.

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Why assume GE Salmon will be grown in the USA?

Posted by Cassandra,

One of the "selling points" of GE salmon is the idea that it will be produced in the USA, in contrast to 95% of Atlantic salmon being farm-raised elsewhere.
Why would this be so? The same economic factors that make fish farming more profitable away from the USA will still be in play. Are AquaBounty's test commercial facilities in the US? No, they are in Canada and Panama.
AquaBounty's lobbying may be American, but their farms and the majority of their jobs won't be.
Waiving the American Flag? Pardon the pun, but that's a red herring.

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GE salmon

Posted by harry,

Any GM/GE food has and can be clinically tested on a human or animal. TESTING in this clinic has proved that it is not suitable for human survival. Any material can be tested by any practitioner world wide who is also a member of INTERNATIONAL COLLEGE of APPLIED KINESIOLOGIST.

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Wrong track

Posted by Jennifer Christiano,

Mr, Henry,

It is not up to Ms. Hanisch to 'prove' that the new product has allergic potential. It is materially different from the old "product" - naturally evolved salmon - and as such, a potential hazard to those who are reactive to the new genetic profile. It is up to the company producing these transgenic species to demonstrate, beyond a reasonable doubt, that their product is safe for human consumption. And to take the economic risk associated with any damage it may cause. The consumer cannot be forced to purchase the product ("forced" because they are prevented from determining whether they are buying a real fish or a GE fish), then assume the cost of damage sustained to themselves when the product is discovered to be harmful.

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