Genetically modified Atlantic salmon may be in U.S. grocery stores soon thanks to an announcement Friday by the Food and Drug Administration.
FDA has approved the import of genetically engineered salmon eggs by AquaBounty Technologies, which has built a plant in Indiana to raise the fish. The salmon's regulatory journey is often cited by the biotechnology industry as an example of how difficult it is to gain approval for genetically modified organisms — and animal products, in particular. The genetic construct for the fish was developed in 1989.
“We are delighted that FDA has lifted the import alert, which will allow AquaBounty to begin producing and marketing AquAdvantage Salmon in the United States," AquaBounty Technologies CEO Sylvia Wulf said. "We will immediately start the process to import AquAdvantage eggs from our hatchery in Canada to begin grow-out at our Indiana facility.”
USDA’s final GE labeling rule, which went into effect Feb. 21, made the announcement by FDA possible. Congress had approved appropriations language in 2016 preventing any food containing GE salmon from entering the country until FDA issued labeling guidelines “informing consumers of the GE salmon content in the food,” FDA said. FDA issued an import alert in 2016 preventing GE salmon from entering the U.S.
“FDA no longer has the authority to issue labeling guidance on this topic,” the agency said, adding it "believes this congressional mandate has been satisfied by the USDA’s issuance of final (labeling) regulations ... because the law and regulations require that human food containing GE salmon bear labeling indicating that it is bioengineered."
"As was determined during the FDA’s 2015 review, this fish is safe to eat, the genetic construct added to the fish’s genome is safe for the animal, and the manufacturer’s claim that it reaches a growth marker important to the aquaculture industry more rapidly than its non-GE farm-raised Atlantic salmon counterpart is confirmed," FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement.
FDA approved the application for an AquaBounty facility in Albany, Ind., last year.
According to AquaBounty, “the genetic makeup of the biotech fish takes a growth-hormone regulatory gene from the Pacific Chinook salmon with a promoter gene from an ocean pout and puts it into the genome of an Atlantic salmon.”
The fish grows at a faster rate than non-GMO salmon, and with 25 percent less feed, AquaBounty says.
AquaBounty's stock (AQB) rose quickly today on the news. At the close of trading, it was up $2.65 to $4.89/share, an increase of 118 percent for the day.
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