AquAdvantage Salmon has been genetically engineered to grow more rapidly than its non-GE farm-raised Atlantic salmon counterpart. It does so because it contains an rDNA construct that is composed of the growth hormone gene from Chinook salmon under the control of a promoter (a sequence of DNA that turns on the expression of a gene) from another type of fish called an ocean pout. This allows the salmon to grow to market size faster than non-GE farm-raised Atlantic salmon.
The fish will be bred in Canada and raised in Panama, but the FDA approval paves the way for the meat to be sold to consumers in the United States. The regulatory agency says it has no plans to require labeling of genetically engineered salmon, however, producers may choose to label on a voluntary basis.
Manufacturers who wish to voluntarily label their food products as containing or not containing genetically engineered Atlantic salmon may do so as long as such labeling is truthful and non-misleading.
The FDA requires additional labeling of all foods, including foods from genetically engineered sources, when the food products are materially different from their conventional counterparts. Material differences include changes in features like nutritional profile, and functional properties, amongst others. The fact that a food is produced through the use of genetic engineering alone does not normally constitute a material fact requiring additional labeling under the FD&C Act.
Because the data and information evaluated show that food derived from AquAdvantage Salmon is not materially different from food derived from other Atlantic salmon, the FDA has determined that no additional labeling of food from AquAdvantage Salmon is required.
The Center for Food Safety announced it is suing the FDA to block the sale of the fish, citing concerns that the modified salmon could pose an unknown threat to native fish species.
A study by Canadian researchers found that genetically engineered Atlantic salmon can successfully cross-breed with brown trout, a closely related species common to areas surrounding both AquaBounty facilities, posing serious risks wild populations that are already under duress. Many additional long-standing concerns regarding impacts to wild species and the environment raised during a 2012 Senate hearing remain unanswered.
Many genetically modified plants are already in production across the United States. USA Today’s Elizabeth Weise offers this rundown:
In the United States today, a huge proportion of the most commonly grown commodity crops are genetically engineered: 95% of the nation’s sugar beets, 94% of the soybeans, 90% of the cotton and 88% of the feed corn, according to the 2011 International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications report.