As the Food and Drug Administration announced that a genetically engineered salmon is safe to eat and will not harm the environment, a coalition of advocacy groups issued a joint press statement criticizing the FDA’s anaylsis as inadequate.

salmon3-featured.jpg“For the millions of consumers, fishermen, and stakeholders who will be affected by the FDA’s decision, FDA’s release of incomplete information … is simply too little, too late,” Andrew Kimbrell, executive director for the Center for Food Safety, said in the news release.  “FDA’s fundamentally flawed process flies directly in the face of President Obama’s executive order for openness and transparency in government.”

The Center for Food Safety, along with Food & Water Watch and the Consumers Union, criticized the data provided by the FDA on its Website as scant, considering the agency had 10 years to review and decide whether AquAdvantage transgenic salmon will be the first genetically modified (GM) animal to be approved for human consumption.

The groups expressed concern that the FDA analysis of changes in the morphology of the new GM salmon involved only 12 fish and that the study on its potential to cause allergic reaction involved only 6 fertile GE fish and 6 infertile fish.  They said the sample sizes were too small to give an accurate picture of the health and safety of such fish raised in a commercial operation.

Michael Hansen, senior scientist at Consumers Union, noted that FDA did not require data from long-term clinical feeding trials.  “Without the required testing and safety data we have no way to prove the transgenic salmon is safe to eat,” he said in the prepared statement.

Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, said that because the FDA used the animal drug process to review the GM fish, “basic health and safety data was kept a secret until just before the hearing on its approval.” 

Opponents have long feared the fast-growing fish could escape and out-compete or breed with wild salmon. “No new data relating to the environmental and economic risks that transgenic salmon will pose if they escape into the wild was included in the materials released today,” said Erich Pica, President of Friends of the Earth US.

Despite AquaBounty’s assurance that the fish would be raised inland and that only sterile females would be sold, the consumer groups called this “a flawed assessment completed by AquaBounty itself (that) wrongly assumes nothing will go wrong.”

The FDA will hold two public meetings on the GM salmon Sept. 19-21 and is then expected to make a decision on whether to approve the fish.  If it wins approval, AquaBounty has said it could take up to three years before the fish would be marketed to consumers.