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US Food and Drug says GE salmon doesn't pose a risk

By Stephanie Dearing     Sep 3, 2010 in Food
Washington - The US Food and Drug Administration has AquaBounty's genetically engineered salmon is safe to eat, and does not pose an environmental risk. The GE fish still has not been approved, but a decision is expected in the near future.
AquaBounty has been working on the GE Atlantic salmon since 1996 when it bought the patents for the animal with high hopes of fathering a "blue revolution." The fish has been in development for over twenty years, and was originally created by Canadian scientists.
A major hurdle to meeting the end goal was overcome when the company was able to create a stable technology that causes the GE Atlantic salmon to grow faster than wild or non-GE farmed salmon. AquaBounty calls its technology AquaAdvantage.
The next major hurdle was to get the US Food and Drug Administration approval for the fish. That process, which was started approximately ten years ago, is now very close to resulting in the outcome AquaBounty desires -- approval of the fish. But while approval is almost a sure thing, a decision is still pending. The last few steps in the approval process include a public meeting, peer reviews and a hearing. These steps could stop the show, or could result in AquaBounty receiving the final seal of approval. The meeting has been scheduled for September 19, reported Reuters.
Some call the transgenic fish 'frankenfish.' Should approval be granted to proceed with commercializing the technology, AquaBounty says the GE Atlantic salmon would be grown only at in-land fish farms, Physorg last month.
AquaBounty does not like its patented and trade-marked technology called 'frankenfish,' and said its salmon does not grow larger than normal, only faster than normal, thanks to the insertion of a growth hormone gene from the Chinook salmon.
Organizations that oppose the transgenic salmon say that AquaBounty has also inserted a gene from an eel. A coalition of 31 different groups explained the significance, saying the insertion of "... anti-freeze genes of an eelpout (Zoarces americanus) ... causes production of growth-hormone year-round, creating a fish the company claims grows at twice the normal rate. This ... could allow factory fish farms to crowd fish into pens and still get high production rates."
AquaBounty says its GE salmon take half the time to mature to harvest size than normal salmon, which the company states is needed to help feed the world. That's not how opposition to the fish see the issue. The True Food Coalition is urging the United States government to not approve the technologically engineered fish. The coalition fears that salmon escapes, which occurs regularly from existing salmon farms, could result in the pollution of native salmon genetics, as well as creating serious competition for resources.
The Executive Director for the Center for Food Safety, Andrew Kimbrell, criticized the FDA for considering approving the GE fish. “FDA’s decision to go ahead with this approval process is misguided and dangerous, and is made worse by its complete lack of data to review. FDA has been sitting on this application for 10 years and yet it has chosen not to disclose any data about its decision until just a few days before the public meeting.”
The Coalition has also criticized the FDA for providing a very limited time frame for the public to weigh in on the GE fish. There are 31 organizations that have joined the coalition to fight the GE salmon.
Writing for the the Huffington Post, Andrew Gunther pointed out that there are animal welfare issues involved with the GE fish, saying "... According to an expert panel from the Royal Society of Canada, set up in 2001 to consider the potential impacts of food biotechnology, experiments to genetically modify fish have already resulted in health and welfare issues, including "changes to enzyme activity, gross anatomy, behavior and, in all likelihood, hormonal activity."
More about Aquabounty, Salmon, Usfda, Atlantic salmon, Aquadvantage
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