Full Environmental Review for Genetically Engineered Salmon Demanded

A dozen executive officers of some of the nation’s largest environmental organizations requested that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration conduct a thorough Environmental Impact Statement before deciding whether to approve the first ever genetically engineered animal for food.

This new animal, AquaBounty Technologies’ AquAdvantage® salmon, containing genetic material from Chinook salmon, Ocean pout, and Atlantic salmon, is engineered to grow nearly twice as fast as wild salmon, according to company claims.

As the groups’ letter states, a full Environmental Impact Statement is necessary to review the potential harm that commercialization of this genetically engineered fish could inflict on the environment, biodiversity, and human health.

The FDA has announced its intention to conduct its own cursory environmental assessment of AquaBounty’s genetically engineered salmon, although by law it is not required to do so before approval of the application.

“A full Environmental Impact Statement would provide the FDA with the time needed to fully evaluate these threats instead of rushing through the approval process with a less thorough assessment,” said Eric Hoffman, Biotechnology Policy Campaigner with Friends of the Earth.

The groups also asked that the FDA consult with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and the Fish and Wildlife Service before deciding to approve genetically engineered salmon.

“Wild Atlantic salmon have been listed as an Endangered Species since 2000, partly due to genetic and fitness impairments caused by inbreeding with farmed salmon escaping from pens,” said Patti Goldman, Vice President for Litigation with Earthjustice. “It would be irresponsible for the FDA to approve this genetically engineered salmon without looking at the threat approval poses to these endangered populations.”

“The threats to wild salmon populations and natural ocean ecosystems are real and must be thoroughly reviewed,” said Dr. George Leonard, Director of Ocean Conservancy’s Aquaculture Program. “That is why the environmental community is united with consumer advocates, food safety experts, and countless concerned citizens in its call for the FDA to produce a full Environmental Impact Statement before any decision about approval is made.”

In September, an FDA advisory panel met to discuss issues surrounding the genetically modified salmon, however, after 11 hours of deliberation, the panelists did not hand down a clear verdict on whether the salmon was safe to eat, and they did not say when a final decision will be given.

The letter, signed by the executives of Environment America, Sierra Club, Union of Concerned Scientists, Ocean Conservancy, Oceana, Earthjustice and other groups, is available at the link below. (PDF)

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