FDA bans imports of genetically engineered salmon — for now
Genetically engineered salmon won't be hitting U.S. dinner tables anytime soon. Two months after federal regulators approved the nation's first genetically engineered salmon for human consumption, the Food and Drug Administration on Friday issued a ban on the import and sale of the fish until the agency can publish guidelines for how it should be labeled.
The FDA's action was prompted by language in a sprawling federal spending bill passed by Congress recently, which instructed regulators to forbid the sale of genetically engineered salmon until the agency finalizes rules about how it should be labeled -- a process that potentially could take years.
In November, after a prolonged regulatory battle, the FDA approved the AquAdvantage salmon, produced by Massachusetts-based AquaBounty. The Atlantic salmon contains a growth hormone gene from a Chinook salmon and a fragment of ocean pout DNA that acts as a sort of perpetual "on" switch -- a combination that helps the salmon grow large enough for consumption in 18 months instead of the typical three years. The agency initially said it could require additional labeling of genetically engineered foods only if "there is a material difference -- such as a different nutritional profile" between the altered food and its natural counterpart. In the case of the AquAdvantage salmon, FDA found no such differences.