Genetically engineered salmon – FDA looking the other way?

In September 2012 the FDA appeared ready to approve AquaBounty (AB)Technologies’ genetically engineered (GE) salmon. The company had claimed an enhanced GE growth rate twice as fast as Atlantic Salmon. AB had only looked at a small number of GE fish produced in its studies, and they exhibited 50% higher rates of allergenicity and 40% higher rates of a growth hormone linked to cancer in humans. After reviewing AB’s salmon, FDA deemed the GE salmon as identical to other salmon, and thus there would be no need for further review.

Ed.note: Norwegian salmon farmers have already demonstrated faster growth rates of their conventionally farmed salmon, without the need for genetic engineering (SalmoBreed AS has challenged AquaBounty on the high growth rates of their salmon ).

The FDA has also failed to address AquaBounty’s track record of dangerously lax stewardship, which should have triggered more questions about the likelihood of GE salmon escapees from their facilities. In a 12-15 month period between 2008 and 2009, AB appears to have lost most of its GE salmon to mechanical failures, falling trees, unusual storms and disease.

Ed comment: Did any of AB’s lost fish escape into the ocean and if so what effect could larger GE fish have on the wild salmon? The failure of AB’s GE salmon application to provide credible, comprehensive risk assessments, and the absence of robust plans guaranteeing containment of such unnatural new genetically engineered (GE) fish entity raises significant concerns. And what kind of oversight will happen if the fish are commercialized in many new locations? There is increased scientific agreement we have entered a period of more extreme weather events, which could pose heightened weather- related risks of severe storms and flooding hazards 

to GE salmon containment .

As to doubts about AB to guarantee secure containment under a wide variety of robust weather conditions, can they also guarantee sterile succeeding generation GE fish without any unintended genetic changes from the individual GE salmon originally presented for FDA approval? Aren’t human consumption risks impossible to assess without more detailed studies? Is FDA being imprudent in moving ahead with the AquaBounty Salmon application which could conceivably increase health care risks and health care costs in the US (especially to those who may unknowingly consume such fish)?

Ed. comment regarding human consumption: With the ocean pout eel-like animal (a non kosher fish) genes spliced into the GE salmon, wouldn’t the GE salmon be transformed by genetic engineering into a new non kosher fish?? How will people know? Will there be any new allergenic substances created when eaten cooked or raw?

Without labeling such fish to the consumer as Genetically Engineered, and without being assured of the absence of mutations in fish gene transfers over time, there might also be potential Federal Trade Commission Deceptive Practices and other violations. Without labeling, the consumer would outright be denied this necessary and valuable information (especially for individuals who have already experienced allergic reactions from genetically engineered products). Without being assured of adequate GE salmon containment (along with meaningful penalties for escapee salmon) , if GE salmon moves into commercial food production, what could happen to our remaining natural Atlantic salmon population and other fish ecosystems? Shouldn’t genetically engineered animals be handled with more care to minimize risks and health care costs in America today? 

*** Contact the FDA (by February 25th when the public comment period ends), President Obama, and your Congressmen to share your concerns.***

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