Published: Tue, March 12, 2019
Money | By Ralph Mccoy

FDA Allows Genetically Modified Salmon to Be Imported Into US

FDA Allows Genetically Modified Salmon to Be Imported Into US

The salmon is the only genetically modified animal approved by the FDA to be sold as food to humans, though many other products are likely to follow in AquaAdvantage's wake.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has lifted a ban on genetically-engineered salmon imports, allowing the company AquaBounty to export eggs it is producing at its facility in Bay Fortune, P.E.I.

In context: The U.S. has long used genetically modified (GM) plant crops in its food chains, but so far has had no GM animals on sale for human consumption.

On Friday the FDA announced that a genetically modified type of salmon will soon be allowed to be imported and reared in the USA ahead of new labelling requirements coming into force which ultimately will allow the fish to be sold to consumers.

The FDA approved the fish in 2015 and found it to be safe to eat, that the genetic modifications were safe for the fish and confirmed that it reaches a growth benchmark important to the aquaculture industry faster than non-modified farm-raised Atlantic salmon.

In a statement, the FDA said the recently issued GMO food labeling from USDA supersede its authority over labels on biotech food.

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Congress in 2016 directed the FDA not to allow food into the USA that contained genetically engineered salmon until the agency implemented superior labeling guidelines for informing people that certain foods contained the altered salmon.

Following the US Department of Agriculture's issuance of labeling guidelines on so-called bioengineered foods at the end of 2018, "the FDA believes this Congressional mandate has been satisfied", says Gottlieb in the statement. Salmon eggs could then be sent from the company's research and development facility in Canada, and would be harvested after about 18 months when they reach 10 pounds, she said.

"With the deactivation of the import alert, AquAdvantage Salmon eggs can now be imported to the company's contained grow-out facility in IN to be raised into salmon for food".

The salmon are bred to all be female and sterile and they are raised in tanks, AP reported, measures aimed at addressing any fears the fish might get into the environment and breed with wild fish. The company has said they expect final certifications for their Albany facility in the coming weeks. The fish is already available in limited qualities on the market in Canada, where labelling is discretionary and up to grocers, the Post added.

George Kimbrell, legal director for the Center for Food Safety, one of the groups suing the FDA, said the company's tests shows it's not 100 percent certain the fish would be sterile, and concerns about it getting in the environment would grow if the AquaBounty's operations were to expand. Wulf said she doesn't expect the pending lawsuit to affect the company's US plans.

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