Genetically modified salmon are one step closer to reaching the dinner plates of American consumers. The Food and Drug Administration on Friday lifted an import alert that stopped genetically engineered salmon — called “Frankenfish” by some critics — from entering the United States, the agency announced in a news release.
The move comes despite a lawsuit challenging the FDA’s original approval of the fish.
In 2015, AquaBounty Technologies’ AquAdvantage Salmon became the first genetically modified animal approved by the FDA for human consumption. However, Congress blocked the FDA from allowing the fish to be sold in the United States until guidelines for disclosing that a food had been genetically modified were implemented.
In the announcement Friday, the FDA said Congress mandated that the U.S. Department of Agriculture set standards for disclosing whether a food is bioengineered, and the FDA no longer had the authority to issue labeling guidance on the topic.
It went on to say that when the Agriculture Department issued regulations in late 2018 requiring human food containing genetically engineer salmon to have labels indicating that it is bioengineered, the congressional requirement was met.
By lifting the alert, the FDA is allowing AquAdvantage Salmon eggs to be imported to a facility in Indiana where the eggs can be grown into fish for food.
The fish is Atlantic salmon modified with DNA from other fish species so that it reaches market weight in 18 to 20 months instead of the 28 to 36 months that conventionally farmed salmon require.
In its 2015 finding, the FDA said the salmon is safe to eat and the genetic material added to the fish’s genome is safe for the animal.
The salmon are bred to all be female and sterile and they are raised in tanks, AP reported, measures aimed at addressing any fears the fish might get into the environment and breed with wild fish.
AquaBounty CEO Sylvia Wulf said the company expects to get a final certification for its Albany, Indiana, growing facility in the coming weeks.
She said the salmon already has been sold in limited quantities in Canada, where it doesn’t have to be labeled as genetically modified.
Wulf told AP she doesn’t expect the pending lawsuit filed by a coalition of consumer, environmental and fishing groups to affect the company’s U.S. plans.
George Kimbrell, legal director for the Center for Food Safety, one of the groups suing the FDA, said the company’s tests shows it’s not 100 percent certain the fish would be sterile, and concerns about it getting in the environment would grow if the AquaBounty’s operations were to expand.
“We think a remedy in our case would stop sale of the fish before they’re allowed to be sold,” Kimbrell told AP.
Genetically modified salmons! BEURKKK!