Along with “fiscal cliff” and budget negotiations, the end of 2012 also marked the release by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of its draft environmental assessment of genetically engineered (GE) salmon, carrying this man-made frankenfish animal one step closer to grocery market fish counters.
From manufacturer AquaBounty, this frankenfish is an Atlantic salmon bred to contain genes of a variety of wild Pacific salmon called a Chinook salmon and from an ocean pout, a fish that resembles an eel. The combination of genes allows the fish to grow year-round, rather than only during spring and summer, as natural salmon do. And as a result, AquaBounty’s salmon grows to 24 inches long, rather than 13, and clocks in at an average of 6.6 pounds, rather than 2.8.
Here is the approval process trick: Intended for human consumption, the frankenfish is not being approved as a food, but as a “new animal drug”. That frees it from the necessity to assess a lot of its impacts, including on human health, and allows the company’s own two-week-long safety trial to be used as a valid way to assume that it is safe for human consumption.
Environmentalists and food-safety advocates like the Center for Food Safety (a nonprofit opposing GE salmon through GE-Fish.org) are alarmed, to say the least. Although claimed sterile, these new salmons show a 5% fertility rate and could contaminate the already endangered wild Atlantic salmon population and salmon farms, if they breed with them. Fishermen raised the related question of liability and asked where the responsibility falls if a frankenfish escapes?…
None of these concerns were addressed in the FDA’s environmental assessment because… the frankenfish won’t be raised in the U.S. (home to the last remaining wild Atlantic salmon stocks and a small number of salmon farmers). The eggs will be raised in Prince Edward Island, Canada, and then shipped to Panama, where they’ll grow into salmon.
For 90 days, ending 2/25/2013, the FDA will be accepting public comment on its draft environmental assessment (share your thoughts on regulations.gov; search for docket number FDA-2011-N-0899-0002). After the comment period and once final approval is granted, the newly official frankenfish will be sold unlabeled at fish counters. Alaska is the only state to have passed a law requiring labeling of this GE salmon, in an effort to protect the wild Alaskan salmon industry, but no other state, nor the FDA, is requiring labeling. Your best bet will be to continue buying only wild Alaskan salmon. Federal law does require that wild fish and farmed fish be labeled as such, and GE salmon will qualify as farmed.
Check out the full article at: http://www.rodale.com/gmo-salmon?cm_mmc=TheDailyFixNL-_-1174908-_-01222013-_-are_you_ready_for_frankenfish_image
Credit photo: AquaBounty