The U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the creation and sale of a genetically engineered salmon - a creation which GMO critics are calling “Frankenfish.”
The fish - AquAdvantage Salmon - was created by AquaBounty Technologies Inc. which has been trying for 20 years to get approval to raise and sell the fish commercially for human consumption. The company devised a method through which it added genes to salmon, allowing it to grow faster and bigger than normal salmon.
The director of the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, Bernadette Dunham, says the FDA “determined that they (AquaBounty Technologies Inc.) have met the regulatory requirements for approval, including that food from the fish is safe to eat."
Shares of Intrexon Corp., which holds a 58 percent stake in AquaBounty, rose 10 percent to $38.99 this morning when the FDA approval was made public.
The decision is seen as part of the FDA's efforts to adapt to the quickly changing world of genetically modified organisms (GMO). Last week, the agency released guidelines for food companies that want to label their plant-derived products as either genetically engineered or as containing no genetically engineered ingredients. Currently food manufacturers do not have to label their products with the information but can voluntarily if they so wish.
The FDA won’t require food made with the genetically engineered salmon to be labeled, telling the media that if consumers "want to avoid it, they can choose wild-caught salmon".
The new guidelines rely on the term “food derived from genetically engineered plants," rather than “genetically modified” or “genetically modified organism".
GMO plants and animals used for human consumption is a controversial subject with consumer groups pushing for labeling of GMO foods, which they say have not been proven to be safe. On the other hand, supporters say the products can help reduce world hunger by producing plants and animals which are more productive and resistant to disease, drought and pests.
Companies including Dow Chemical Co. , Syngenta AG and Monsanto already produce GMO seeds for food production which include pesticide-resistant soybeans, extra-nutritious rice and non-browning apples.
AquaBounty Chief Executive Officer Ronald Stotish says, “AquAdvantage Salmon is a game-changer that brings healthy and nutritious food to consumers in an environmentally responsible manner without damaging the ocean and other marine habitats.”
In a statement announcing the approval, the FDA says it determined "the salmon is as safe to eat and as nutritious as other non-altered Atlantic salmon".
One FDA stipulation is that the AquAdvantage Salmon must be raised in land-based, contained hatchery tanks in two specific facilities in Canada and Panama. It isn’t allowed to be bred or raised in the U.S.
Answering criticism that the fish could escape and breed with wild fish, Stotish says the salmon are sterile.