It turns out genetically modified salmon won’t be in grocery stores in the U.S. any time soon. Just two months after the FDA approved the sale of AquAdvantage salmon, regulators reversed course, prompted by language in a Congressional omnibus spending bill that bans the import or sale of the fish until the FDA settles the question of how to label it. The Washington Post reports:
In November, after a prolonged regulatory battle, the FDA approved the AquAdvantage salmon, produced by Massachusetts-based AquaBounty. The Atlantic salmon contains a growth hormone from a Chinook salmon and a gene from the ocean pout — a combination to help it grow large enough for consumption in 18 months instead of the typical three years. The agency initially said it could require additional labeling of genetically engineered foods only if “there is a material difference — such as a different nutritional profile” between the altered food and its natural counterpart. In the case of the AquaAdvantage salmon, FDA found no such differences.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) pushed for language in the bill preventing the fish from entering the U.S. market until the agency finalizes labeling guidelines.
The effort marks a victory — though perhaps a temporary one — for activists and commercial fishermen who have raised concerns about whether the AquaBounty fish is safe to eat and whether potential environmental harms could result if any of the modified salmon made their way into ocean waters and mated with wild salmon. The Massachusetts-based company repeatedly has argued that its fish, which are all female, sterile and currently raised only in land-locked facilities in Canada and Panama, actually could reduce pressure on wild stocks and prevent the over-fishing of Atlantic salmon.
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