The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently announced that the agency will hold two public meetings on AquAdvantage Salmon, a genetically modified (GM) Atlantic salmon intended to be used for food, on September 19-21, 2010.
According to an announcement, the FDA Veterinary Medicine Advisory Committee will address science-based issues associated with AquaBounty Technologies’ application for approval of AquAdvantage Salmon during these meetings.
The first day of public meetings is designed to be an orientation for Veterinary Medicine Advisory Committee members on the technology of producing GM animals and the FDA’s regulatory process for evaluating these animals. Day 2 will involve FDA presentations on animal health, food safety, environmental concerns, and data supporting the claim that AquAdvantage Salmon grow faster than conventionally bred Atlantic salmon.
On the third day of meetings, the FDA plans to hold a public meeting at which it will present the relevant legal principles for food labeling and describe information made available prior to the hearing about the GM fish. In the announcement the FDA noted: “Although it will be FDA’s responsibility to determine if any special labeling is required in accordance with federal law, the hearing will offer the public an opportunity to comment on the application of the relevant food labeling principles to foods that might be made from the AquAdvantage Salmon.”
Friday, a coalition of 31 consumer, animal welfare, and environmental
groups joined with commercial and recreational fisheries associations
and food retailers to submit a joint statement criticizing the FDA
announcement that AquAdvantage GM salmon could be approved for human
“We all know there is a great appetite for salmon, but the solution is
not to ‘farm’ genetically engineered versions to put more on our dinner
tables; the solution is to work to bring our wild salmon populations
back,” said Jonathan Rosenfield, PhD, a Conservation Biologist and
President of the SalmonAID Foundation, a 28-member coalition
of commercial, tribal, and sportfishing interests, conservation
organizations and chefs. “The approval of these transgenic fish will
only exacerbate the problems facing our wild fisheries.”
“FDA’s decision to go ahead with this approval process is misguided and
dangerous, and is made worse by its complete lack of data to review,”
said Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director for the Center for Food
Safety. “FDA has been sitting on this application for 10 years and yet
it has chosen not to disclose any data about its decision until just a
few days before the public meeting.”
AquaBounty Inc. submitted its first application to release a transgenic Atlantic Salmon in 1999. According to a paper released in 2006 by the Institute of Science in Society, the AquAdvantage Atlantic salmon “contains a Chinook salmon growth hormone gene driven by the ocean pout antifreeze promoter, resulting in a dramatic increase in growth rate.” The paper was written by Prof. Joe Cummins and Dr. Mae-Wan Ho in response to the Codex Alimentarius Commission of the United Nations
announcement that it was preparing guidelines for safety assessment of
foods derived from recombinant-DNA animals.
In 2007, AquaBounty had also begun developing growing strains of fin fish capable of reducing growth to maturity time by as much as 50 percent. The FDA paper stated that AquAdvantage was expecting FDA approval of some of its GM fish as early as 2006 and that it planned a commercial launch in 2009.
At the time the paper was released, scientists had expressed concerns over the release of sexually reproducing transgenic fish into nature. Extinction of the natural fish population was one concern expressed.
“We believe any approval of GE salmon would represent a serious threat to the survival of native salmon populations, many of which have already suffered severe declines related to salmon farms and other man-made impacts,” added Marianne Cufone, director of the Food and Water Watch fish program.
Boyce Thorne Miller, Science and Policy Coordinator for the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance and accredited observer at the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization, added, “Approving genetically engineered salmon is a sharp contradiction to the agreements the United States has signed at NASCO, where transgenic salmonids are considered a serious threat to wild salmon.”
Correction: Authorship of “GM Food Animals Coming” was originally incorrectly attributed to the FDA. The paper was released by the Institute of Science in Society.