The first GMO fish for human consumption will be produced in Indiana

The first genetically-modified animal for human consumption could be arriving in grocery stores across the United States as early as next year.

Massachusetts-based AquaBounty Technologies has developed a biotech salmon that it plans to grow near no major body of water, in a production facility in the small town of Albany, Indiana. The company producing the breed of high-tech fish hopes to change the aquaculture industry.

As unlikely as the location is, the fish is just as unusual.

The Science Behind the Fish

AquaBounty will produce a GMO salmon that CEO Ron Stotish says will grow faster than freshwater-raised fish. “It does so because we’ve given it the ability, using the same biological process that regulates growth in the unmodified salmon, to grow about twice as fast reaching market rate about half the time,” Stotish says. The technology has been around since the 1990s, but it took until 2015 to receive approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, due to concerns about people eating genetically-modified animals.

The genetic makeup of the biotech fish takes a growth-hormone regulatory gene from the Pacific Chinook salmon with a promoter gene from an ocean pout and puts it into the genome of an Atlantic salmon. The result causes for the growth hormone to remain on leading to faster growth rate than non GMO salmon. The modified fish is able to grow to market size using 25 percent less feed than the traditional salmon, increasing cost efficiency.  Read the article.

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AquAdvantage Salmon’s journey to market: Still making history

Making History is what AquaBounty Technologies has been doing ever since it was created in 1991. Originally named AF Protein (for antifreeze protein, the original focus of research), the Company was created to commercialize a fast-growing Atlantic salmon.

This salmon, created using recombinant DNA technology by a team of scientists based at Memorial University of Newfoundland, in St. John’s, NL, Canada, grows to market size (4-5 kg) in about 18 months, instead of the 28-36 months it takes for conventional farmed Atlantic salmon. The basis for the rapid growth is the AquAdvantage gene construct. This single growth hormone gene from Chinook salmon and promoter sequence from ocean pout, when integrated into the Atlantic salmon genome, enabled the Atlantic salmon to grow continuously to adult size in record time, with the added advantage of using 25% less feed. This product was named AquAdvantage® Salmon (AAS).  Read the article.

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Replacing meat with farmed salmon reduces pressure on farmland and protects the planet

Without meat and dairy consumption, global farmland use could be reduced by more than 75%. What about farmed salmon, where a large part of feed comes from agriculture, e.g. soy. Should we all become vegans?

Two interesting recent reports address this question. One is a comprehensive study by Poore and Nemecek published in Science. Another is a study (in Norwegian) by the NGO Future in Our Hands (FIOH).

What we eat really has an impact, not only on our health, but on the health of our planet.

In an article in the Guardian Joseph Poore of the University of Oxford, UK explained that “a vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use”. “It is far bigger than cutting down on your flights or buying an electric car,” he continued, as the latter changes only cut greenhouse gas emissions.

So how would such a change look on your dinner plate? FIOH has calculated how many square meters of farm land are needed to produce one portion of dinner:

Read the article.

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Researchers in Scotland test nutritional value of GM-fed salmon

Trial is finding out if GM-fed salmon could be more nutritious.

According to the BBC, researchers at the University of Stirling, Scotland, are feeding farmed salmon genetically modified crops to see if it can potentially increase their nutritional value.

Despite it still being one of the best sources of essential nutrients, another study reported in the BBC in 2016 showed that omega-3 oils in farmed salmon have fallen significantly in the past five years.

At the recent trial, researchers added a gene from a type of marine algae to a camelina plant to produce the omega-3 fish feed, which the team hope will be absorbed by the salmon.

Lab tests show that fish fed on this have had their levels of oil boosted. The test is to see if this can be replicated in a farm setting.

Prof Douglas Tocher, of University of Stirling said: “These are essential nutrients to our diet to maintain our health; particularly cardiovascular health, some inflammatory diseases and some cancers. Here in the UK, particularly up in Scotland, we suffer quite badly from many of the diseases for which dietary omega-3 has beneficial effects”.  Read the article.

Other articles on this topic:

New study could revolutionise salmon farming

GM plants could provide balanced diet for salmon

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8th International Symposium on Aquatic Animal Health in Charlottetown, PEI, Canada

The 2018 International Symposium on Aquatic Animal Health marks the thirtieth anniversary of the ISAAH to be held September 2 – 6, 2018 in Charlottetown,  Prince Edward IslandCanada.  The ISAAH meets every four years and typically attracts 300–400 fish health professionals from around the world. This will be only the second time the Conference has been hosted in Canada; the inaugural conference took place in Vancouver in 1988.

Aquaculture is the world’s fastest-growing sector for animal food production. And Atlantic Canadian companies are a prime resource in the evolution, growth and research into innovative solutions to challenges facing the global aquaculture industry. There are more than 30 organizations involved in aquaculture research and development throughout Atlantic Canada and several companies and the Atlantic Veterinary College in Prince Edward Island are helping to lead the way.

Delegates attending ISAAH 2018 will be have the opportunity to join other aquatic health professionals from around the world for scientific workshops, business meetings, keynote and research  presentations. The theme of this year’s  symposium is “Integrating Biotechnology in the Advancement of Aquatic Animal Health”.

ISAAH 2018 is being hosted by the Fish Health Section of the American Fisheries Society, the Atlantic Veterinary College, and the Prince Edward Island BioAlliance.

AquaBounty Canada is a proud Local Partner for this symposium.

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The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2018

The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2018 presents FAO’s official world fishery and aquaculture statistics. Global fish production* peaked at about 171 million tonnes in 2016, with aquaculture representing 47 percent of the total and 53 percent, if non-food uses (including reduction to fishmeal and fish oil) are excluded. With capture fishery production relatively static since the late 1980s, aquaculture has been responsible for the continuing impressive growth in the supply of fish for human consumption.  Read the article.

 

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Climate change poised to transform marine and freshwater ecosystems

New analysis and modelling released today by FAO and more than 100 collaborating scientists projects that by 2050 climate change will have altered the productivity of many of the planet’s marine and freshwater fisheries, affecting the livelihoods of millions of the worlds’ poorest people.

While the productive potential of fisheries in exclusive marine economic zones (EEZs) — those 200-mile wide swathes of land-adjacent ocean territory that every coastal nation has special rights to exploit — could decline less than 12 percent on average, this masks more significant fluctuations of productive potential at regional level, models suggest.

The planet’s critical but often-overlooked inland water systems — which include five of the world’s least-developed countries among its top 10 fish producers and provides 11.6 million tonnes of food for human consumption each year — will also be affected, the report says.

These impacts are linked to changes in water temperature and pH levels, shifts in ocean circulation patterns, rising sea levels and altered rainfall and storm patterns causing species to change their distributions and productivity, corals to bleach, and aquatic diseases to become more common, among others.

The projections appear in a sweeping 654-page collection of global, regional and national analysis and information released today by FAO, which represents the most comprehensive publication on climate change and fisheries ever assembled.

Impacts of climate change on fisheries and aquaculture: Synthesis of current knowledge, adaptation and mitigation options includes both new research as well as unique synthesis of the most current scientific information on how a changing climate is altering the world’s oceans, lakes and rivers and reshaping the lives of the communities who rely on them.  Read the article.

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Salmon grower will start commercial production this year

Make History, this year’s BIO Convention theme, is what AquaBounty Technologies has been doing ever since it was created in 1991. Incidentally, that was two years before BIO was founded. Originally named AF Protein (for antifreeze protein, the original focus of research), the Company was created to commercialize a fast-growing Atlantic salmon. This salmon, created using recombinant DNA technology by a team of scientists based at Memorial University of Newfoundland, in St. John’s, NL, Canada, grows to market size (4-5 kg) in 18 months, instead of the 30-36 months it takes for conventional farmed Atlantic salmon. The basis for the rapid growth is the AquAdvantage gene construct. This single gene and promoter sequence, when integrated into the Atlantic salmon genome, enabled the Atlantic salmon to grow continuously to adult size in record time, with the added advantage of using 25% less feed. This product was named AquAdvantage® Salmon (AAS).  Read the article.

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Genetically-engineered-salmon farm awaits eggs

Fresh water is circulating through 68,684-gallon indoor tanks.

Containment barriers are in place to prevent an escape.

Facilitiy manager Pablo Bernal and other veteran Chilean fish farmers are on the job.

Birds and dragonflies swoop and dart above wastewater treatment lagoons full of turtles.

Security guards are on patrol; surveillance cameras are operating, and a chain-link fence topped with strands of barbed wire runs along the perimeter of the complex.

Everything’s virtually ready to start producing the world’s first approved genetically engineered (GE) food-use animal, an Atlantic salmon trademarked as AquAdvantage Salmon. Its advantage is it reaches market size (about 5 kilograms, or 11 pounds) almost twice as fast as non-engineered Atlantic salmon.  Read the article.

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Aquaculture America 2018: GE salmon pioneer AquaBounty laments past struggles, eyes future

Taking an audience of fish farmers and scientists through 30 years of AquaBounty Technologies’ struggle to get its genetically engineered salmon to market, Dave Conley, the firm’s communications director, sounded wistful.

He took the audience through the long development and approval path for its faster-growing AquAdvantage salmon from the company’s 1995 application before the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to its 2015 approval.

“If you look at the opportunities lost over those 20 years AquaBounty could have done some really innovative stuff instead of fighting battles trying to get through the court of public opinion and FDA approval,” he said.

The pioneering firm, which has operations in Canada and Panama and is working on refitting the former Bell Aquaculture facility in Albany, Indiana, burned through $80m during that period.

“We had to reduce our staff. We had to focus our attention of what was priority and what wasn’t,” he said. “We had to landfill 62 tons of perfectly good salmon that we couldn’t even give away to a food bank because of what the activists would do to us.”

The firm, which sold some salmon in Canada last year, still faces challenges on US GMO labeling laws and the hurdle of consumer acceptance, which Conley believes will come, someday.

I think consumers are going to eat the salmon and they are going to like it and we are going to move past what we’ve been suffering the past 25 years,” he said.  Read the article.

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Current biotech regulations create animal and crop approval blocks and bottlenecks but gene editing may open new doors

The cost of current biotech industry regulations might not be obvious to consumers, but it’s clear to researchers.

“We’ve got nothing on the market for animals. Zero. Twenty years of zero. That’s the cost of regulation. That’s my entire career,” said Alison Van Eenennaam, a geneticist with the University of California-Davis. “I very much understand the opportunity costs of tying breeders’ hands behind their backs because we have developed these disease-resistant animals, we have developed animals that more efficiently digest their feed and reduced environmental impact per pound of gain, and they haven’t come to market.”

Van Eenennaam said many genetically engineered animals have not been commercialized because regulatory costs are prohibitive. And it’s unlikely to change unless regulations for gene-edited products avoid the regulatory environment that has kept smaller companies and some academics from using transgenic processes to produce innovative agricultural products. Transgenic breeding involves the moving of genetic material between unrelated plant or animal species. These types of crosses have been used to create many of the crops, including corn, soybeans and cotton, that dominate farms in the US and other nations where GMOs are allowed to be grown.

According to a 2011 CropLife survey, it costs an average of $136 million and takes 13 years to bring a GMO crop to market. That’s a price that can only be paid by the largest of companies. Said Van Eenennaam:

So yeah, the environmental implications of slowing down or excluding access of breeders to innovation is draconian, especially in animal production. I see that lost opportunity, perhaps the public doesn’t, but breeders do.

Ironically, GMO opponents often point out that only large companies benefit from biotechnology while lobbying to make it more difficult and costly to produce GMOs. As a result, few small companies have successfully navigated the regulatory maze to commercialize transgenic products. One of the few success stories is that of Aquabounty and its genetically engineered salmon.  Read the article.

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AquaBounty expansion

Construction at GM salmon facility in Rollo Bay proceeding as planned

The summer of 2017 was a hot one in PEI, not only weather-wise but also opinion-wise, when it came to the provincial government’s approval for AquaBounty Technologies’ expansion of their Rollo Bay facility. The company’s plan is to commercially grow salmon from genetically modified eggs to market size. The approval granted on June 19, 2017 led to wide media coverage that seems to have slowed down after the summer months. Salty reached out to both AquaBounty Canada Inc. as well as to several activist groups in order to inquire about the current status of the expansion project and the opposing movement.

Dave Conley, director, corporate communications of AquaBounty Technologies Inc. informed Salty that the renovations to the existing hatchery facility (formerly known as Snow Island’s Atlantic Sea Smolt Ltd. Facility) have been completed. Construction to build broodstock and production facilities are underway with an expected completion date in the fall of this year.

When asked about the public concern with regards to the company’s expansion in PEI, Conley responded, “Our plans to commercialize the production and sale of our AquAdvantage salmon took all the concerns expressed to date into consideration. Escapes and water usage were the primary concerns. Regarding escape risks, the RAS [Recirculating Aquaculture System] facilities we are using have multiple and redundant barriers to prevent escapes of all life stages, from eggs to adult fish. The water usage in all three facilities combined will be less than in the original smolt production facility because the new RAS design recycles more than 99% of the water we use.”  Read the article.

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For sale in Canada, genetically engineered salmon delayed by politics in US

A trivia question for American food shoppers: AquAdvantage, the genetically engineered Atlantic salmon being sold in Canada, is available in how many U.S. supermarkets?

The answer is none, despite being approved as safe to eat by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in late 2015, the first GE animal to be so approved. In fact, the fast-growing transgenic Atlantic salmon won’t make its way to U.S. stores and restaurants for nearly two years, perhaps longer, said Dave Conley, spokesman for AquaBounty Technologies.

However, wild salmon is a big Alaskan home industry, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, didn’t like GMO salmon competing with her state’s wild catch. She and other Alaskan officials got Congress to hold up sale of the fish in the U.S., forcing FDA to block AquAdvantage imports until the agency issues new regulations to indicate “genetically modified” on food labels. FDA is mandated to issue that regulation by late July but has not indicated when to expect the rules.

AquaBounty expects to comply with FDA requirements, Conley said, but is waiting to see just what the labeling rules will be.  Read the article.

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How anti-biotech environmental groups are trying to kill roll-out of AquaBounty’s sustainable salmon

If you love Atlantic salmon, what you are eating is almost certainly farm-raised, despite what the label might say. The mislabeling fraud may be as high as 69%, according to a Time survey.

Many consumers believe they are ‘missing out’ in taste by not consuming wild fish, but more and more salmon lovers accept the fact that we need to buy farm fish to restore the ocean’s bounty because of a history of overfishing. They are focused on the benefits of sustainable fishing and the healthy advantages of salmon—it’s a great source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Las Vegas chef Rick Moonen, a champion of sustainability, is one of many high-profile chefs who have switched to farmed salmon.

Which makes the current campaign by some Canadian environmentalists attempting to demonize what is widely considered the most sustainable salmon on the market—a fish genetically tweaked to grow twice as fast with no negative ecological consequences—particularly disturbing. It’s also highlighting the ongoing pitched battle between organic fundamentalists, who proliferate in the old-line environmental movement, and more science-and technology-embracing environmentalists.  Read the article.

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The Long Journey of Genetically Engineered Salmon to Your Dinner Plate

Thirty years of controversy has followed the transgenic technology that produces fast-growing fish but now it has finally arrived in Canada and could soon come to the United States. Will it live up to its claims of making seafood more sustainable?

One day in 1992, a technology entrepreneur sat down for a meeting with a pair of biologists who were studying the genes of fish. The scientists, Choy Hew and Garth Fletcher, were working on a method of purifying “antifreeze proteins” that would help Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) survive so-called superchill events in the North Atlantic. Normally these salmon migrate out of the sub-zero ice-laden seawater of the far North Atlantic to overwinter in less frigid waters. Increasingly, though, such fish were being farmed, penned year-round in offshore cages, in near-Arctic waters to which they were not adapted. Fish farmers were looking for a way to keep the fish alive through the winter, and the antifreeze protein seemed like a possible solution.

As the meeting drew to a close, Fletcher and Hew showed Elliot Entis, the entrepreneur, a photo of two fish of equal age. One dwarfed the other. “I sat back down,” Entis recalled recently.

Fletcher and Hew, it turned out, had not just been putting antifreeze proteins into Atlantic salmon. They had also figured out a way to add a growth hormone from Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), plus a fragment of DNA from the ocean pout (Zoarces americanus), an eel-like creature that inhabits the chilly depths off the coast of New England and eastern Canada. This genetic code acts like an “on” switch to activate the growth hormone. The result was a genetically engineered superfish that grew nearly twice as fast, on less food, as conventional salmon.  Read the article.

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Genetically modified salmon producer AquaBounty advances to product commercialization

AquaBounty, the controversial U.S. firm that has figured out how to make Atlantic salmon grow faster through genetic engineering,  continues its march toward widespread distribution of its salmon.

On 12 January, it issued an underwritten public offeringthat is expected to raise USD 12 million (EUR 9.9 million). The company said the new funding will help it build and operate more production facilities in the United States.

The company’s story is unique in the seafood industry, many parts of which still do not accept AquaBounty as one of its own. Its history dates back to 1989, when it first developed its genetically modified salmon. Within a few years was seeking regulatory approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to sell it, but that process dragged on for 20 years starting in 1995, when the FDA started its review.

But in 2015, the agency granted approval for AquAdvantage Salmon. It was the first time the FDA had approved a genetically modified animal for human consumption. Health Canada approved the sale of the salmon shortly after, in 2016.

Now, AquaBounty is poised to commercialize its product and expand its market share.

“We’ve come through the R&D phase, we’ve been through the approval phase, and now we’re going to commercialization,” Dave Conley, AquaBounty’s spokesman, told SeafoodSource. “It’s been a long journey from 1989 to today, probably longer than anybody anticipated.”  Read the article.

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One hurdle for AquaBounty could go, but others remain

Controversial genetically engineered (GE) salmon pioneer AquaBounty Technologies could be cleared to begin US salmon sales if a continued prohibition against its imports isn’t inserted into the next federal budget, the company says.

However, an Alaskan senator who was crucial in tweaking a 2016 budget bill that led to the import ban says that she will continue to fight for the company’s salmon to be labeled as genetically engineered ahead of any US sales.

Speaking to an audience at the recent Aquaculture America conference, Dave Conley, the Maynard, Massachusetts-based company’s communications director, said that language inserted into the bill authorizing the US federal budget for 2016 banned genetically engineered salmon imports into the US until the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) provides guidelines on labeling. Based on the language, the FDA issued an import alert — meaning AquaBounty, which currently grows out its salmon in a small-scale production facility in Panama, can’t bring it into the US

Without similar language in this year’s budget, the import ban will be lifted, Conley said.  Read the article.

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Genetically engineered salmon anyone?

For the very first time in the world, Biotech company AquaBounty made a genetically engineered animal available for public consumption. Since going on sale last year in Canada, their genetically engineered salmon has attracted controversy from consumers and scientists alike. AquaBounty CEO Ronald Stotish explains why this pioneering fish has caused such a splash and why it was nearly thirty years in the making.  Listen to the interview.

Release date: 15 February 2018

Duration: 4 minutes
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Genetically engineered fish is not a matter of “if” but “when”

After more than 30 years, genetically engineered salmon may be coming to a store near you. Is that good or bad news for the planet?

One day in 1992, a technology entrepreneur sat down for a meeting with a pair of biologists who were studying the genes of fish. The scientists, Choy Hew and Garth Fletcher, were working on a method of purifying “antifreeze proteins” that would help Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) survive so-called superchill events in the North Atlantic. Normally these salmon migrate out of the subzero ice-laden seawater of the far North Atlantic to overwinter in less frigid waters. Increasingly, though, such fish were being farmed, penned year-round in offshore cages, in near-Arctic waters to which they were not adapted. Fish farmers were looking for a way to keep the fish alive through the winter, and the antifreeze protein seemed like a possible solution.

As the meeting drew to a close, Fletcher and Hew showed Elliot Entis, the entrepreneur, a photo of two fish of equal age. One dwarfed the other. “I sat back down,” Entis recalled recently.

Fletcher and Hew, it turned out, had not just been putting antifreeze proteins into Atlantic salmon. They had also figured out a way to add a growth hormone from Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), plus a fragment of DNA from the ocean pout (Zoarces americanus), an eel-like creature that inhabits the chilly depths off the coast of New England and eastern Canada. This genetic code acts like an “on” switch to activate the growth hormone. The result was a genetically engineered superfish that grew nearly twice as fast, on less food, than conventional salmon.  Read the article.

This story originally appeared in bioGraphic, an online magazine about nature and sustainability powered by the California Academy of Sciences.

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