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Faster Growing Salmon Will Not Harm Environment, FDA Says

Big Salmon won’t harm the environment, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said Friday. It was good news for AquaBounty, the company seeking approval for the first genetically engineered animal for human consumption. Its salmon grows twice as fast as a normal salmon.

A year in the works of lots of critics, the environmental assessment of the fast-growning AquaAdvantage salmon concluded the fish “will not have any significant impacts on the quality of the human environment of the United States.”

Nor is it likely that the fast-growing salmon will harm populations of natural salmon, a claim often used as fear tactic among environmentalists. FDA conclusions are now subject to a 60 days public comment period, which is certain to gather many objections.

Two years ago FDA said the fast-growing salmon was likely safe to eat, but required the environmental assessment. While crops like corn and alfalfa have been generically changed and then introduced into the marketplace, salmon would be the first such application in the animal world.

AquaBounty plans to employ several environmental safeguards, including the fact that the Salmon would be bred female and sterile.

In development since 1991, AquaBounty has more than $67 million invested in the big Salmon, its only product in development. It uses the growth hormone from the Pacific Chinook salmon to achieve the rapid growth.

Some are not satisfied. The Consumers Union, publishers of Consumer Reports, says FDA did not adequately research the potential the big fish has for causing allergic reactions.

“FDA has allowed this fish to move forward based on tests of allergenicity of only six engineered fish—tests that actually did show an increase in allergy-causing potential,” said CU’s Michael Hansen, PhD and senior scientist “Further, there have been no safety testing of fish grown in Panama, where Aquabounty intends to raise the salmon. The health and safety of fish can be affected by growing conditions.”
CU says FDA is relying too much on the fact that the engineered salmon would be 95 percent sterile females with the rest ferile.

“When you are talking about millions of fish, even one percent comes to thousands of fish. Moreover, perhaps even more important, the fish at the egg production facility in Prince Edward Island, Canada would obviously not be sterile—otherwise they could not produce eggs,” Hansen states.

“We are further concerned that consumers will in many cases not have any way to avoid this fish if they want to. While salmon is required by law to be labeled as to country of origin in supermarkets, this does not apply to fish markets or restaurants. While in supermarkets consumers could avoid fish from Panama, where this salmon will be grown, they will not have this ability when eating out or buying at a fish store,” Hansen said.

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