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No Frankenfish (For Now) Thanks To Congressional Ban

Congress has banned the FDA from approving genetically-modified salmon for human consumption.

Salmon Steaks

Photo: Andrea Pokrzywinski (Flickr)

Critics of the "frankensalmon" argue that not enough research has been done to determine its impact on human health or its impact on the environment if any genetically engineered salmon were to escape into the wild.

No To Frankenfish

Last week’s congressional amendment bans the FDA from spending any funds on genetically engineered salmon.

AquaBounty Technologies, the salmon’s creators, has been trying to get approval for the fish for over a decade. They submitted their final data to the FDA for consideration in June 2010. A 60-day public consultation took place in September 2010. Preliminary announcements from the FDA in 2010 had said that the fish appeared to be safe to eat.

The AquAdvantage salmon is an Atlantic salmon that contains a growth hormone from a Chinook salmon and a genetic “on-switch” from an ocean pout that causes the fish to continue to grow in cold weather, when they normally would not.

Safe Or Unsafe?

Critics of the “frankensalmon” argue that not enough research has been done to determine its impact on human health. There is also concern on its impact on the environment if any genetically engineered salmon were to escape into the wild.

Health concerns include the potential for severe allergic reactions and the potential long-term effects from the metabolic processing of the genetically-modified material. Salmon farmers are also concerned about the impact of GM salmon on traditional ocean-based salmon farming businesses.

Proponents of the fish argue that critics claims are unfounded. They state that there is virtually no risk of the fish entering the wild, as they’re designed to be raised on land-based fish farms, not in pens at sea. Furthermore, the FDA has stated that there is no material difference between GM and wild salmon.

Butt Out, Congress

Some experts are annoyed that Congress has gotten involved in the issue at all. “It’s unfortunate that the politics that has gotten into this,” says David Edwards, director for animal biotech at the Biotechnology Industry Organization. “It’s really a problem that should be debated by scientific experts. And those experts are at FDA.”

AquaBounty representatives view Congress’s ban as a temporary setback. They remain optimistic that the fish will eventually be approved.

Currently, GMO crops are common in North America, Latin America, and parts of Asia. In the US, there is no law requiring GM foods to be labeled as such.

The AquAdvantage salmon would have been the first GM animal approved for human consumption.

Read More:

  • House Moves to Ban Modified Salmon (NY Times)
  • A Giant Leap Into The Unknown: GM Salmon that Grows and Grows (The Independent)
  • U.S. Congress votes to block GM salmon (CBC.ca)
Sarah Gordon

Sarah Gordon has been interested in food ethics since she was 15, learned about industrial slaughter, and launched into 10 years of vegetarianism. These days, she strives to be a conscientious omnivore. Now a PhD candidate in folklore, her research has caused her to spend a lot of time in the remote Canadian sub-arctic, where the lake trout (sustainably harvested) tastes amazing.

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