By Lorrie Baumann
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a New Animal Drug Application for the production, sale, and consumption of AquAdvantage® Salmon, an Atlantic salmon that has been genetically enhanced by biotechnology company AquaBounty Technologies, Inc. to reach market size in less time than conventional farmed Atlantic salmon. The approval has drawn immediate denunciations from environmental and consumer advocacy groups.
Ronald L. Stotish, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer of AquaBounty, commented, “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. 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.”
The U.S. currently imports over 90 percent of all the seafood, and, more specifically, over 95 percent of the Atlantic salmon consumed in the country. AquAdvantage Salmon will offer the opportunity for an economically viable domestic aquaculture industry while providing consumers a fresh and delicious product, the company says. “The U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee encourages Americans to eat a wide variety of seafood—including wild caught and farmed—as part of a healthy diet rich in healthy fatty acids. However, this must occur in an environmentally friendly and sustainable manner. FDA’s approval of the AquAdvantage Salmon is an important step in this direction,” said Jack A. Bobo, Senior Vice President and Chief Communications Officer at Intrexon, AquaBounty’s parent company.
Environmental groups are taking issue with both AquaBounty’s claim that its product is environmentally responsible and the idea that Americans are willing to eat it. A New York Times telephone poll conducted in January 2013 found that three quarters of those polled said that they would not eat genetically modified fish and two thirds would not eat genetically modified meat. “Despite FDA’s flawed and irresponsible approval of the first genetically engineered animal for human consumption, it’s clear that there is no place in the U.S. market for genetically engineered salmon.” said Lisa Archer, Food and Technology Program Director at Friends of the Earth, which claims that more than 60 grocery store chains representing more than 9,000 stores across the U.S. have made commitments to not sell the GMO salmon, including Safeway, Kroger, Target, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Aldi and others. “People don’t want to eat it and grocery stores are refusing to sell it.”