Fall 2011

Dialogue | Are there risks associated with the production and consumption of genetically engineered (GE) salmon?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) seems poised to approve salmon engineered by AquaBounty Technologies (ABT) using genetic material from an eel-like fish (the ocean pout) and a growth hormone from another species of salmon that will allow the engineered fish to grow twice as fast as conventional salmon.

Because this is the first-ever engineered food animal, the degree of risk is not well understood. Of primary concern is the harm that could result to wild salmon fisheries if GE salmon were to escape confinement. Engineered salmon could also be more allergenic than traditional salmon, and because the FDA is unlikely to require special labeling for GE salmon, consumers will have no way to distinguish it from non-GE salmon.

UCS and others in the scientific community have expressed concerns that these risks have not been properly assessed by either the FDA or ABT. For example, the FDA has yet to complete an environmental impact statement on the risks of GE salmon because it assumes the salmon would not escape ABT’s proposed containment facilities, and does not consider the possibility that future production facilities could lack secure containment.

Because ABT’s application sets a precedent for other GE food animals, it is critical that the FDA rigorously review every possible risk this GE salmon may pose to food supplies and ecosystems.

 

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