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. The following article is by Anastasia Bodnar from Biology Fortified.
It’s been a long time coming. The FDA has finally released their decision about fast-growing, genetically engineered salmon. They state: “After an exhaustive and rigorous scientific review, FDA has arrived at the decision that AquAdvantage salmon is as safe to eat as any non-genetically engineered (GE) Atlantic salmon, and also as nutritious.” It may be safe to eat, but the remaining question is whether wild fish could be at risk from GMO salmon. Back in 2010, I combed through the FDA documents and scientific literature to find out. This post is a summary of the containment measures used for AquAdvantage salmon. See Risk assessment and mitigation of AquAdvantage salmon for the full details.
When Aqua Bounty Technologies, Inc. applied to the FDA for approval of their AquAdvantage salmon, they were very specific about how and where the fish would be raised. The request was for one specific egg production facility in Canada and one specific fish production facility in Panama. The FDA’s approval is for these locations only, and a new approval would be needed for any new locations. Aqua Bounty selected these locations to have many overlapping ways to prevent release of GMO salmon into the environment. Aqua Bounty explains these containment methods in the environmental assessment that they submitted to the FDA. The containment methods are biological, physical, and environmental.
The most important way to prevent AquAdvantage salmon from breeding with wild salmon is to use only fish that can not breed (sterile fish). Most animals in nature have two copies of each chromosome. Fish eggs with three copies of each chromosome (called triploid) can be created by treating fertilized fish eggs with pressure, high temperatures, or certain chemicals. Resulting female fish are not able to produce eggs, so can not reproduce. Triploid fish are used all over the world as a way to prevent farmed or stocked fish from breeding. The pressure treatment used by Aqua Bounty results in at least 98% triploid fish (see page 57). Still, that’s up to 2% of fish that might be fertile, so they must be contained with other measures. To make matters a little more complex, some triploid males can still produce sperm. Aqua Bounty has reduced the risk of fertile fish escaping by using only female fish. Read the article.