Food is going to be coming out of the laboratory in the near future, but if it’s not embraced by the retail distribution chain, it might have a short existence.  

That’s the strategy environmental groups like Friends of the Earth are using on AquaBounty’s genetically engineered (GE) salmon,  pressuring retailers like Walmart, Costco, Kroger, ALDI, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, WFM, H-E-B, Hy-vee, Sprouts, Giant Eagle, Meijer, and Target from selling  the GE salmon.

Those retailers, however, likely have not made a forever decision not to carry the product. The AquaBounty salmon is getting some rave reviews. Toronto Food Writer Michele Henry wrote: “The flesh is exquisite. Buttery, light, juicy. Just as Atlantic salmon should be.”

Grocery retailers usually respond to customer demands.

AquaBounty’s retail strategy, however, is not known as the company did not respond to inquiries from Food Safety News. 

COSTCO is among those prominently listed for not selling genetically engineered salmon, but it uses “not at this time” language in its customer explanations.  

“While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has determined that milk and meat from cloned animals are safe for human consumption, we have only just begun what will be an extensive and ongoing conversation regarding future policies. Rest assured, however, that we are closely monitoring both the latest in research and in public input,” Costco ‘s website says.

AquaBounty Technologies (NASDAQ: AQB) plans first-ever harvest and commercial sales in the U.S.  for this fall.  

It says the first transgenic — also called a genetically modified organism (GMO) — salmon produced in an AquaBounty farms facility in Indiana will be sold in the United States later this year. The biotech community says it has waited 31 years to make the announcement.

The FDA and Health Canada approved the AquaBounty AquAdvantage salmon as the first and only bioengineered animal protein for human consumption. 

AquaBounty’s AquAdvantage fish program is based upon a specific molecular modification completed one time, 30 years ago, to better protect the fish during their early, most vulnerable stages of growth, resulting in an estimated 70 percent increase in annual production output for AquAdvantage versus conventional Atlantic salmon.

It doubles the growth rate of farm-raised salmon through a simple genetic modification, getting it to market size in half the time,  18 months vs. 36, while consuming fewer resources

Tests spanning 20 years show that the only difference between transgenic and non-transgenic salmon is the intended difference: their growth rate. There are no organoleptic differences (flavor, texture) or variations in the composition of the meat, nor is there any problem when consuming it.

Friends of the Earth claims 80 grocery retailers, seafood companies, food service companies, and restaurants with more than 18,000 locations nationwide have stated they will not sell GMO salmon, demonstrating a widespread market rejection of the first commercial offerings of the first genetically modified animal approved for human consumption in the U.S.

“Genetically engineered salmon pose unacceptable risks to wild salmon and broader ecosystems. People across the country have made it clear that they don’t want to eat genetically engineered salmon, and food retailers are clearly listening,” said Dana Perls, food and technology program manager at Friends of the Earth. “We thank these forward-thinking retailers for their leadership.”

The environmental group says the salmon pose serious environmental risks including potentially irreversible damage to wild salmon populations. It claims still more research is needed.

The GE salmon has been approved for sale in the U.S. since 2015. Until 2019, however the U.S.prohibited imports of GE salmon and eggs.

AquAdvantage salmon is genetically engineered with the DNA of an eel-like ocean pout, a cold-water fish, to grow faster. 

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