The US FDA has finally approved the first genetically engineered animals for human consumption. The fast-growing salmon has been assessed as safe by the FDA. After 60 days of public comment, the FDA may issue a final assessment and approval, at which time the company AquaBounty, of Maynard, Massachusetts, can start selling the fish.
The draft assessment was dated May 4, indicating that the FDA had kept its conclusions under wraps for a couple of months. It’s been speculated that political interference might have been responsible. AquaBounty has stated that delays wouldn’t shock it, since the company has been seeking FDA approval since 1995. When first informed of the FDA’s approval, even the CEO of AquaBounty was incredulous. The FDA has reviewed more than 50 safety studies, including one that shows that the engineered salmon poses no more of an allergic potential than wild salmon. The engineered Atlantic salmon contains an active growth hormone from a Chinook salmon that allows it to reach market weight in 18 months instead of 36, thus halving the time needed.
The GE salmon are being kept in enclosed, inland tanks to prevent the small risk that the nearly sterile females will breed with wild salmon. There are concerns that fish farmers will file for permits to keep the salmon in nets in the open ocean in order to lower costs. AquaBounty has stated that it wouldn’t sell the fish to farmers who do not have enclosed, inland tanks. After 17 years and $60 million, the salmon might finally be made ready for markets.