The US Food and Drug Administration Agency (FDA) is close to approving a genetically modified form of Atlantic salmon to be sold as food. If approved, the fish will become the first genetically modified animal to be available for human consumption.

A risk assessment conducted on behalf of the FDA concluded that the fish, known as AquAdvantage Salmon, poses no significant impact on the environment and is as safe to eat as conventional salmon. The salmon is engineered to grow twice as fast as normal wild salmon, allowing it to reach marketable size in 18 months instead of the 3 years taken for normal farmed fish.

AquAdvantage states that in order to prevent any spread of the gene into wild populations, the salmon will all be sterilised and female, and all life stages will be conducted in secure land-based facilities. Opponents say there can be escapees from land based facilities, and that the process of sterilisation is not 100% successful, as stated in the company’s own literature.

AquAdvantage salmon will initially be grown in Canada and then transported to Panama to be grown out to market size. Eventually the engineered salmon eggs will be on sale for other companies across the world to grow out. As the FDA has only conducted a risk assessment on the initial Canada and Panama stages, and the environmental threat specifically to the US, there are concerns that other growing locations will be subject to less stringent regulations and cause the accidental release of fish into the wild. If genetically engineered animals are released into the environment, they can cause severe ecological damage by out-competing the native populations for food, mates and territories.

There is now a 60 day public consultation process open for people to comment on the proposal, which will close at the end of February. After this time it is likely the fish will be approved for sale in the US. Once on the shelves, the genetically engineered salmon may not be labelled any differently from normal farmed salmon, robbing consumers of the ability to choose.

To read the full FDA report:

Food and Water Watch fact sheet

To add your name to the Avaaz petition for submission to the public consultation

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