FDA Approves Genetically Engineered Salmon as Safe to Eat

Following a thorough scientific review, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved genetically engineered (GE) salmon as safe for human consumption. Genetic engineering is already approved by the FDA and widely used in plants such as corn and soybeans for purposes of enhancing flavor, increasing crop output, and resistance to pests and disease. However, the approval of AquAdvantage salmon, manufactured by AquaBounty Technologies, Inc., represents the first GE animal to be available to consumers.

The GE salmon contains a growth hormone gene from the Chinook Pacific salmon which is kept continuously active by another gene from an eel-like creature, the ocean pout. Whereas non-GE Atlantic salmon intermittently produces growth hormone during the year, the GE salmon produces growth hormones throughout the year and experiences accelerated growth, thus reducing the time required for the salmon to reach market size. The supplier of the newly approved GE salmon suggests that their product is "environmentally responsible" because localized land-based production facilities offer both a small carbon footprint, as well as less impact on ocean resources.

As part of the approval process, the FDA reviewed data provided by AquaBounty Technologies and other peer-reviewed literature to assess the claims and safety of the GE salmon. The FDA determined that the GE salmon is as safe and nutritious to eat as non-GE salmon, safe for the health of the fish, meets claims of faster growth, and would not "have a significant environmental impact".

Concurrently, the FDA also indicated that current law does not require labeling of GE salmon or foods containing ingredients from GE salmon. However, the FDA also issued draft recommendations for voluntary labeling of salmon that has or has not been genetically engineered.