FDA: GM salmon ‘safe to eat’

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is poised to approve for human consumption the genetically modified salmon developed by biotechnology firm AquaBounty Technologies of Waltham, Mass., following a preliminary determination that the fish is “safe to eat.”

In documents posted to the FDA website late last week, FDA scientists said, “Food from AquAdvantage Salmon … is as safe as food from conventional Atlantic salmon, and there is a reasonably certainty of no harm from the consumption of food from this animal. [There is] no biologically relevant difference between food from [AquAdvantage Salmon] and conventional Atlantic salmon based on the criteria evaluated.”

The findings will be presented during a Veterinary Medicine Advisory Committee (VMAC) meeting in Rockville, Md., on 19 to 20 September. The FDA will also hold a public hearing on the application of its food-labeling requirements and how it might apply to AquAdvantage Salmon.

According to AquaBounty, the technology will allow farmed Atlantic salmon to grow to market size of about 8 pounds in just 18 months, compared to the standard 36 months. AquAdvantage Salmon contains a gene from an ocean pout and a growth hormone from a chinook salmon.

“We’ve been studying this fish for more than 10 years,” Ronald Stotish, AquaBounty’s president and CEO, told the Washington Post on Monday. “In characteristics, physiology, behavior, this is an Atlantic salmon. It looks like an Atlantic salmon. It tastes like an Atlantic salmon.”

However, a coalition of 31 consumer, animal welfare, environmental and fishermen’s groups has already voiced its concern with genetically modified salmon, claiming it represents a serious threat to the survival of native salmon populations due to escapement and competition for resources.

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