Genetically Engineered Salmon Debate Continues

Created on Wednesday, 08 February 2012

The fight to ensure the appropriate testing of genetically engineered (GE) salmon continues as Food & Water Watch, Consumers Union and the Center for Food Safety submit a petition asking the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to classify and evaluate AquaBounty Technologies’ GE salmon and as a food additive.

By classifying it this way, it will have to be evaluated with greater rigor than with its current classification as a ‘new animal drug’. The three consumer groups behind the petition claim that the process used to create the GE salmon “substantially” alters its composition, including its nutritional value, which provides adequate reason for the fish to be treated as a food additive.

George Kimbrell, senior attorney for the Center for Food Safety, said that the decision by the FDA to review the first proposed GE animal for human consumption simply as a drug is “contrary to law, science and common sense… Public health and transparency should be championed, not skirted, particularly when contemplating such an unprecedented approval.”

By assessing GE salmon, dubbed ‘Frankenfish’ by many, as a food additive, its potential risks to human health will require more rigorous assessment. GE salmon has been linked to cancer, as it may contain increased levels of the hormone IGF-1 that “helps accelerate the growth of the transgenic fish and is linked to breast, colon, prostate and lung cancer,” according to Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch.

FDA scientists preliminarily determined that AquaBounty’s AquAdvantage Salmon is safe for human consumption in September 2010, but an FDA advisory committee subsequently determined that more research is needed. The topic is highly controversial, especially in areas with wild salmon fisheries, and several West Coast legislators, including U.S. Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska, are opposed GE salmon and have introduced legislation to block its approval.

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