GM salmon licensed in the US

US regulators have licensed the production and consumption of a genetically modified salmon, produced by AquaBounty Technologies (Boston), marking the first time a GM animal has been approved as a human food
GM salmon licensed in the US

FDA has approved a new animal drug application concerning AquAdvantage Salmon, a genetically engineered Atlantic salmon. The Food and Drug Administration found that the AquAdvantage Salmon, produced by AquaBounty Technologies, headquartered in Boston area, was safe to eat and “would not have a significant environmental impact”, marking the first time a GM animal has been approved as a human food. AquAdvantage is an Atlantic salmon with genes added to make it grow faster than farmed non-GM salmon. It will be reared only in land-based tanks in Canada and Panama, and the FDA said it was convinced by “the multiple and redundant measures being taken to contain the fish and prevent their escape and establishment in the environment”.

Pro-GM scientists called the approval long overdue, given that AquaBounty first approached the FDA almost 20 years ago and five years ago the agency’s scientists determined that the salmon was safe. The FDA pointed out that physical barriers are placed in the tanks and in the associated plumbing, to prevent the escape of eggs and fish. And the GM salmon are reproductively sterile “so that even in the highly unlikely event of an escape, they would be unable to interbreed or establish populations in the wild”, it said. Consumer opposition to genetically modified organisms, plants and animals, has been stronger in Europe than in the US, and the regulatory barriers have been higher in Europe too.

Ronald Stotish, chief executive of Massachusetts-based AquaBounty, welcomed the FDA approval by restating the product’s environmental credentials. “AquAdvantage Salmon is a game-changer that brings healthy and nutritious food to consumers in an environmentally responsible manner without damaging the ocean and other marine habitats,” he said. “Using land-based aquaculture systems, this rich source of protein and other nutrients can be farmed close to major consumer markets in a more sustainable manner.

AquaBounty is a majority-owned subsidiary of Intrexon, the US biotechnology group. Earlier this year Intrexon bought Oxitec, a privately owned UK company developing GM insects to control mosquito-borne diseases.

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