GMO salmon may soon be coming to grocery stores near you

The US Food and Drug Administration on Thursday issued the first federal approval for a genetically engineered variety of salmon that grows faster than other farm-raised fish. 

Charles Dharapak/AP
AquaBounty CEO Ron Stotish, the company that applied with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to market genetically modified salmon, speaks to reporters in Rockville, Md., Sept. 20, 2010. The FDA on Thursday approved genetically modified salmon, the first such altered animal allowed for human consumption in the United States. AquAdvantage Salmon was created Massachusetts-based AquaBounty. Mr. Stotish said in a statement that the fish 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.'

The US Food And Drug Administration on Thursday gave approval for the first time to allow a genetically engineered animal to be consumed.

The federal agency granted permission to Massachusetts-based AquaBounty Technologies to produce genetically modified Atlantic salmon for consumption, stating that the fish was safe to eat. The FDA said changes to the salmon would allow it to grow faster than other farm-raised fish.

The company used a growth hormone from the Pacific Chinook and enables the modified salmon to produce growth hormones throughout the year.

Since 2010, the Obama administration has been reluctant to approve the fish, dubbed AquaAdvantage Salmon, for human consumption because of uncertainties over its safety.

"The FDA has thoroughly analyzed and evaluated the data and information submitted by AquaBounty Technologies regarding AquaAdvantage Salmon and determined that they have met the regulatory requirements for approval, including that food from the fish is safe to eat,” said Bernadette Dunham, director of the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, in a statement.

But the FDA did include restrictions, including stipulations that the salmon would be raised outside of US boundaries in Canada and Panama.

AquaBounty CEO Ron Stotish said in a statement that the salmon would not damage the ocean or marine habitats. The FDA said safety measure would prevent the salmon from entering the non-modified population, while AquaBounty said the chances of escape are slight.

The FDA decision opens up the door to the approval of other genetically altered animals, a prospect many say crosses ethical lines and also raises health concerns about the consumption of fish or other animals whose DNA have been manipulated.

“We recognize that some consumers are interested in knowing whether food ingredients are derived from GE sources,” said Susan Mayne, Ph.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. “The FDA is issuing two guidance documents that explain how food companies that want to voluntarily label their products can provide this information to consumers.”

The FDA also released guidelines for concerned consumers and businesses who want to avoid eating and serving the engineered Atlantic salmon, but is not requiring mandatory disclosures.

“FDA supports voluntary labeling and is providing this guidance to assist manufacturers that wish to voluntarily label their foods as being made with Atlantic salmon or ingredients derived from Atlantic salmon that has or has not been genetically engineered,” the FDA noted on its website. 

This report contains material from Reuters and the Associated Press.

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