US delays approval for fast-growing GM salmon

| 22nd September 2010
A salmon
Campaigners say approval for the genetically modified salmon would carry 'great risk' and pave the way for more GM animals to enter the market

The US has delayed its decision to approve a new breed of fast-growing genetically modified (GM) salmon for human consumption.

The salmon, owned by biotech company AquaBounty Technologies, has been genetically altered to grow faster than conventionally farmed salmon and would be the first GM animal allowed to be sold to and eaten by consumers. The fish would be bred in Canada with their eggs being shipped to Panama to be reared.

A spokesperson for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said this week that there was no timeline on a decision on the application and that a decision was likely to be months away. As well as deciding whether it is safe for human consumption the government body is also debating about whether it should be labelled as GM.

Despite the delay, campaigners say an approval for the salmon is likely, with stocks expected to be on supermarket shelves in the US by 2012.

In a briefing document published this week the FDA concluded: 'the food from AquAdvantage Salmon (the triploid ABT salmon) that is the subject of this application is as safe as food from conventional Atlantic salmon, and that there is a reasonably certainty of no harm from the consumption of food from this animal.'

UK campaigners said there was not enough evidence to prove 'unequivocally' that GM products have no side effects despite a Food Standards Agency (FSA) claim that GM foods are subject to ‘rigorous safety assessments’.

‘We know GM technology to be uncertain and unpredictable. The risk is too great to justify any release to the environment, whether it’s crops or animals. The ‘GM-free’ label is the fasted growing product on the US food market and even companies like Wal-Mart rejected Monsanto’s GM milk. There’s no market for GM foods in the UK,’ said Soil Association spokesperson Clio Turton.

The company behind the GM salmon, AquaBounty have also claimed their stocks are infertile so carry a lower risk of contaminating wild fish if they escape.

However, the Soil Association said even if bred to be infertile, the risks of one fish escaping into the wild would have 'irreversible consequences’ and that they could also enter the food chain if eaten by other wildlife and harm other fish.

The Salmon and Trout Association in the UK said the FDA had warned that up to 5 per cent of the eggs may be fertile which they said would ‘threaten wild salmonoid stocks with interbreeding and competition.'

Useful links
FDA webpage on GM Salmon

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