Why the worry about GM salmon?

As the comment period on the FDA’s environmental assessment of genetically engineered salmon comes to a close on 26 April, several groups are criticizing the agency’s review process.

Nearly 1.5 million people — the majority opposing the approval of Aqua Bounty’s AquAdvantage salmon — have commented on the FDA review since late December.

“FDA needs to put interests of the public ahead of those from the biotech industry, which appear to be GE salmon’s only proponents,” said Wenonah Hauter, Food & Water Watch executive director.

Food & Water Watch, Friends of the Earth, the Center for Food Safety, Earthjustice and other groups say that documents disclosed through a Freedom of Information Act request “raise serious questions about the adequacy” of FDA’s review of the AquAdvantage Salmon application.

They also allege the scientists with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service questioned the FDA’s ability and authority to review the impact of genetically engineered animals, and agreed with prominent experts that a full Environmental Impact Statement must be conducted before any decision on approval is finalized.

In addition, “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has already received requests to import AquAdvantage Salmon eggs into the U.S. for commercial production,” the groups said in a written statement.

However, Ronald Stotish, the CEO of AquaBounty Technologies, said he was “disappointed” in the environmental groups’ recent allegations. “These groups have consistently issued inflammatory and misleading information in attempts to advance their agenda. They have a right to their opinion, but they have no right to mislead or to decide for everyone. We continue to trust in the science-based review process, the rule of law, and in the benefits of our technology,” Stotish told SeafoodSource.

In its most recent financial statement, for the fiscal year ending December 2012, Aqua Bounty’s board stated that it is hopeful that the company will receive FDA approval of AquAdvantage salmon. The company will continue to maintain tight cost controls until it receives approval, following which it intends to use the bulk of the approximately USD 5.73 million new funds raised to being the initial commercialization program.

That is exactly the concern of the groups: that the FDA will approve GE salmon.  

“The FDA process is obviously flawed, and already the market is rejecting genetically engineered salmon,” said Eric Hoffman with Friends of the Earth.

More than 2,500 grocery stores are committed to not sell GE seafood should it come to market and 260 chefs across the country have signed on to a letter by Chefs Collaborative objecting to the transgenic fish.

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