To celebrate the anniversary of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval of our AquAdvantage Salmon for commercial production and consumption, we are posting a series of articles that have appeared over the past year and prior. The following article by Vanessa Schipani appeared in FactCheck.org.
Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski says she opposes federal approval of genetically engineered salmon “for the health of both consumers and fisheries.” But there is no scientific evidence that suggests GE salmon will pose a significant risk to either.
Murkowski claims GE salmon may “interbreed with the wild stocks, and thus perhaps destroy them.” But GE salmon have been rendered sterile — meaning they can’t interbreed with wild salmon stocks. Geographic and physical confinement measures also limit the likelihood that the GE fish will escape and survive.
As for human consumption, scientists engineered GE salmon to grow faster than non-GE farm-raised salmon by inserting genes from two other fish into the genome of an Atlantic salmon. After these changes, the GE salmon remained nutritionally and physiologically comparable to non-GE salmon, according to Food and Drug Administration’s scientific assessments, so the agency deemed GE salmon “safe to eat.”
By inserting DNA from other fish, the company’s scientists engineered Atlantic salmon to reach market size faster than non-GE farm-raised Atlantic salmon. As per AquaBounty’s FDA application, the GE salmon will only be raised and farmed in inland facilities on Prince Edward Island in Canada and in Panama.
AquAdvantage Salmon was the first GE animal (as opposed to a plant) approved for human consumption in the United States.
However, it’s unclear when the GE fish will reach supermarkets. Back in November, when the FDA approved the product, Ronald Stotish, the chief executive of AquaBounty, told the New York Times that “the salmon would not be in stores immediately because it would take about two years for even these fast-growing salmon to reach market size.”
In January, the FDA also issued a ban on the import and sale of GE salmon until the agency “publishes final labeling guidelines for informing consumers of such content,” the FDA said. The ban was the result oflanguage Murkowski introduced into the 2016 fiscal budget, or omnibus, bill.
False claims about GE salmon have come from politicians on both sides of the party divide. While Murkowski is a Republican, Rep. Jared Huffman, a Democrat from California, has said, for example, that “by approving GE salmon, the FDA is allowing the release of a new hybrid animal that could pose a danger to our wild salmon populations, damage the ecosystems they live in, and undermine our domestic commercial fisheries.” Read the article.