Reeling in “Frankenfish”: Environmental Groups Fight FDA’s Approval of Genetically Modified Salmon
In a decision that begs for puns, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) argued that genetically engineered salmon poses little threat to the environment, a stamp of approval that some environmental groups have been unable to stomach.
On Dec. 21, the FDA submitted its draft Environmental Assessment of AquAdvantage salmon, a species engineered by AquaBounty Technologies of Massachusetts. The report is the final step in a lengthy review process that has already deemed the genetically modified fish safe for human consumption. The agency will take public comment on the report until Feb. 25 before making its final ruling.
The nonprofit law firm Earthjustice, acting on behalf of a coalition of organizations, petitioned the FDA to complete a full Environmental Impact Statement, citing the narrow scope of the environmental assessment. The EIS is a more in-depth report that would anticipate the risks of commercial production and distribution of the genetically tampered fish, which is engineered to mature at an accelerated rate. Food and Water Watch, the Center for Food Safety, and Friends of the Earth have all launched public outreach campaigns to lend weight to the petition.
These organizations hope to force federal health regulators and members of Congress to assess the long-term risks of farming the salmon, specifically the danger it may pose to native fish populations. They said the FDA’s assessment falls short because it focuses only on AquaBounty’s existing facilities in Canada and Panama, without weighing the risk of contamination if the company decides to expand beyond those facilities.
“We don’t think that’s a realistic plan,” Patty Lovera, Assistant Director of Food and Water—a non-profit organization that advocates for policies that will result in safe sustainable food and affordable drinking water—told Campus Progress. “We know those fish escape.”
AquaBounty Technologies refuted these concerns in statement, saying “there is no reason to believe AquAdvantage salmon could either escape from their land-based contained systems or reproduce in the wild.”