Pages tagged "AquaBounty"
GMO salmon caught in U.S. regulatory net, but Canadians have eaten 5 tons
Genetically modified salmon have been approved for sale in the United States, but labeling complications have prevented them from coming to market. In Canada, however, according to a report released Friday by the company AquaBounty, five tons of genetically modified salmon filets have been sold so far.
Eric Hallerman, an expert in fisheries and fish genetics at Virginia Tech who is not affiliated with the company, predicts that we will see many more genetically modified fish and other animals on shelves around the world in the future.
The AquaBounty salmon, called AquAdvantage, is an Atlantic salmon that contains a growth hormone gene from a Chinook salmon. In the wild, salmon produce the hormone only when the conditions are right for rapid growth. In the AquAdvantage salmon, a regulatory switch from an ocean pout gene makes the fish produce growth hormone all the time, so the AquAdvantage salmon grow rapidly throughout the year.
Photo from Friends of Family Farmers.
Lawsuit Challenges FDA's Approval of Genetically Engineered Salmon
A broad coalition of environmental, consumer, and commercial and recreational fishing organizations today sued the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for approving the first-ever genetically engineered (GE) food animal, an Atlantic salmon engineered to grow quickly. The man-made salmon was created by AquaBounty Technologies, Inc. with DNA from three fish: Atlantic salmon, Pacific king salmon, and Arctic ocean eelpout. This marks the first time any government in the world has approved a GE animal for commercial sale and consumption.
The plaintiff coalition, jointly represented by legal counsel from Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice, includes Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, Institute for Fisheries Resources, Golden Gate Salmon Association, Kennebec Reborn, Friends of Merrymeeting Bay, Ecology Action Centre, Food & Water Watch, Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, Cascadia Wildlands, and Center for Food Safety.
In approving the GE salmon, FDA determined it would not require labeling of the GE fish to let consumers know what they are buying, which led Congress to call for labeling in the 2016 omnibus spending bill. FDA’s approval also ignored comments from nearly 2 million people opposed to the approval because the agency failed to analyze and prevent the risks to wild salmon and the environment, as well as fishing communities, including the risk that GE salmon could escape and threaten endangered wild salmon stocks.
AquaBounty’s GE salmon will undertake a 5,000-mile journey to reach U.S. supermarkets. The company plans to produce the GE salmon eggs on Prince Edward Island, Canada. The GE salmon will then be grown to market-size in a facility in Panama, processed into fillets, and shipped to the U.S. for sale. That complicated scheme is only for the initial approval, however. AquaBounty has publicly announced plans to ultimately grow its GE fish in the U.S. rather than Panama, and sell it around the world. Despite this, FDA’s approval only considered the current plans for the far-flung facilities in Canada and Panama, leaving the risk of escape and contamination of U.S. salmon runs unstudied.
The lawsuit challenges FDA’s claim that it has authority to approve and regulate GE animals as “animal drugs” under the 1938 Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. Those provisions were meant to ensure the safety of veterinary drugs administered to treat disease in livestock and were not intended to address entirely new GE animals that can pass along their altered genes to the next generation. The approval of the GE salmon opens the door to other genetically engineered fish and shellfish, as well as chickens, cows, sheep, goats, rabbits and pigs that are reportedly in development.
The lawsuit also highlights FDA’s failure to protect the environment and consult wildlife agencies in its review process, as required by federal law. U.S. Atlantic salmon, and many populations of Pacific salmon, are protected by the Endangered Species Act and in danger of extinction. Salmon is a keystone species and unique runs have been treasured by residents for thousands of years. Diverse salmon runs today sustain thousands of American fishing families, and are highly valued in domestic markets as a healthy, domestic, “green” food.
When GE salmon escape or are accidentally released into the environment, the new species could threaten wild populations by mating with endangered salmon species, outcompeting them for scarce resources and habitat, and/or introducing new diseases. Studies have shown that there is a high risk for GE organisms to escape into the natural environment, and that GE salmon can crossbreed with native fish. Transgenic contamination has become common in the GE plant context, where contamination episodes have cost U.S. farmers billions of dollars over the past decade. In wild organisms like fish, it could be even more damaging.
The world’s preeminent experts on GE fish and risk assessment, as well as biologists at U.S. wildlife agencies charged with protecting fish and wildlife heavily criticized the FDA decision for failing to evaluate these impacts. FDA ignored their concerns in the final approval.
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Photo from Wikimedia Commons.
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.
California’s Largest Tribe Bans GMO Crops and Genetically-Engineered Salmon
The Yurok Tribe—California's largest tribe with roughly 5,000 enrolled members—passed a historic ban on genetically modified (GMOs) crops and salmon.
The Yurok Tribal Council unanimously voted on Dec. 10 to enact the Yurok Tribe Genetically Engineered Organism (GEO) Ordinance:
The Tribal GEO Ordinance prohibits the propagation, raising, growing, spawning, incubating or releasing genetically engineered organisms (such as growing GMO crops or releasing genetically engineered salmon) within the Tribe’s territory and declares the Yurok Reservation to be a GMO-free zone. While other Tribes, such as the Dine’ (Navajo) Nation, have declared GMO-free zones by resolution, this ordinance appears to be the first of its kind in the nation.
The announcement, as the release notes, came on the heels of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval of genetically engineered AquAdvantage salmon in November. The controversial fish—dubbed "Frankenfish" by opponents—is genetically altered to grow to market size in half the time of conventional salmon.
The 56,585-acre Yurok Reservation is located in Humboldt and Del Norte counties in the far northwest of California along a 44-mile stretch of the Klamath River. For thousands of years, the river has been a crucial source for fishing, mostly for salmon.
"The Yurok People have managed and relied upon the abundance of salmon on the Klamath River since time immemorial," a press release from the Yurok Tribe says. "The tribe has a vital interest in the viability and survival of the wild, native Klamath River salmon species and all other traditional food resources."