A genetically modified salmon which grows at twice the speed of a normal salmon is now being reviewed by the US Food and Drug Administration.
Called AquaAdvantage, the super-fast growing salmon was engineered by AquaBounty, a United States company. The fish would be sterile and would be grown on fish farms, the company states on its website, a strategy taken to prevent release of the GM fish into the wild. Should any fish escape, their inability to breed will mitigate their impact on the environment.
AquaBounty issued a press release earlier in June stating there were only two steps left in the process of approving the new animal for market. "... The Company believes that the reviews for the remaining two parts of the application are very nearly complete. As reported previously, all technical submissions necessary for the review and approval of the product have been made and acknowledged. Management has worked
constructively with CVM’s reviewers to answer all questions and is confident of a successful outcome in the near future."
The Massachusetts-based company acquired the licence for the "AquAdvantage® technology" from two Canadian universities - the University of Toronto and Memorial University of Newfoundland in 1996, and has finally gotten a viable product. AquaBounty said the only difference between its trade-marked AquAdvantage and other salmon is the GM fish has a Chinook Salmon gene inserted that allows the GM fish to grow faster than normal.
The company anticipates, once approved by the Food and Drug Administration, that the GM fish will fill a growing world need for protein. The company says the world increasingly relies on farmed fish as wild stocks dwindle.
The Canadians behind the engineered fish isolated a growth hormone from the Chinook salmon and introduced it to Atlantic Salmon, finding the genetic adaptation created "... unprecedented growth-rate enhancement in Atlantic salmon." In a paper given at a biotechnology conference in 2009, AquaBounty said its 20 years of work was about to come to fruition. The company hopes to be the first out the door with a biotech animal for food. "... If approved by the U.S. FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, the AquAdvantage® Salmon, will be the first transgenic food animal approved in the USA, and will allow Aqua Bounty Technologies to commercialize eggs and license AquAdvantage® technology to commercial aquaculture operations on a worldwide basis. "
While transgenic animals are believed, in theory, to be a beneficial development to help feed the world's rapidly growing population, some scientists believe there are risks involved in growing transgenic fish. Science Daily reported last year on a study completed on transgenic fish. The study looked at those fish that escaped fish farms, and examined the impact they had on other fish. Swedish researcher Fredrik Sundström said "Until further notice transgenic fish should be bred in closed systems on land." Sundström found that transgenic fish had a negative impact on the environment, saying "It is probably due to the fact that genetically modified fish have a greater ability to compete and are better at converting food."
AquaBounty had pushed for its GM salmon to be approved in 2004, when it was still a Canadian concern, according to BBC.
The FDA issued its rules for approving transgenic animals in 2008. Reuters reported that foods containing GM animals would not have to be labelled.
If approved, the salmon could be available in stores within a year.