New GE salmon may be entering markets soon

Park Sae-jin Reporter() | Posted : December 23, 2012, 17:53 | Updated : December 23, 2012, 17:53
Government regulators moved a big step closer on Friday to allowing the first genetically engineered animal — a fast-growing salmon — to enter the nation’s food supply.

The Food and Drug Administration said it had concluded that the salmon would have “no significant impact” on the environment. The agency also said the salmon was “as safe as food from conventional Atlantic salmon.” While the agency’s draft environmental assessment will be open to public comment for 60 days, it seems likely that the salmon will be approved, though that could still be months away.

The environmental assessment is dated May 4. It is unclear why it took until now for it to be released, but supporters of the salmon say they believe it is because the Obama administration was afraid of an unfavorable consumer reaction before the election in November.

Environmental and consumer groups quickly criticized the federal agency’s conclusions. However, the decision was long in coming. AquaBounty Technologies, the company that developed the salmon, has been trying to win approval for more than a decade.

The AquAdvantage salmon, as it is called, is an Atlantic salmon that contains a growth hormone gene from the Chinook salmon and a genetic switch from the ocean pout, an eel-like creature. The switch keeps the gene on so that the salmon produces growth hormone year round, rather than only during warm weather. The fish reach market weight in about 18 months instead of three years.

The agency also said that approval of the salmon would have no effect on endangered species, including wild Atlantic salmon. The National Marine Fisheries Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service did not disagree.

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