FDA bans GM salmon imports for the time being

Published on
February 1, 2016

While the sale of genetically modified (GM) salmon was approved for human consumption by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) late last year, imports of the fish have been banned – at least until the agency can determine labeling guidelines.

Language in an extensive federal spending bill passed by Congress incited the FDA to enact the ban, which could potentially take years to lift; publishing final rules regarding product labeling is known to be a lengthy process, reported The Washington Post.

Following decades of regulatory back-and-forth, the agency approved the sale of AquAdvantage salmon, a GM fish product from Massachusetts-based company AquaBounty, in November 2015. Because the FDA did not observe a difference in nutritional profile in the genetically engineered fish, it initially decided that additional labeling was not necessary. However, legislators like Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) remained adamant that the GM salmon products should be subjected to specific labeling, and pushed for language in an omnibus spending bill on Capitol Hill that prevented the sale of GM salmon until the FDA arrived at new labeling guidelines.

The agency "intends to fully comply with the language" in the bill, a FDA spokesperson told The Washington Post.

“This is a huge step in our fight against ‘Frankenfish,’ " Murkowski said in a statement Friday. "I firmly believe that mandatory labeling guidelines must be put in place as soon as possible so consumers know what it is they are purchasing. It seems that the FDA has begun to listen, and I hope this is a sign that the agency plans to develop these necessary guidelines.”

The import alert from the FDA “has no impact on AquaBounty’s operations as we are not currently importing our salmon into the United States," said Ronald Stotish, AquaBounty's chief executive.

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