FDA: Particular GE-Raised Salmon No Threat to Environment

ROCKVILLE, Md. — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has announced — amid criticism from consumer groups — a draft environmental assessment indicating aparticular genetically engineered Atlantic salmon would not have a significant impact on the U.S. environment.

The agency made the announcement public via its website on Friday, Dec. 22, and then posted it in the Federal Register on Tuesday.

The announcement, which has come under strong criticism from Consumers Union, is related to an application for approval of AquAdvantage salmon to be produced by AquaBounty, Technologies, Maynard, Mass. The salmon would be farmed in Panama.

In the Federal Register posting Tuesday, the FDA announced it will receive comments from the public on the subject for 60 days. Agency spokesperson Siobhan DeLancey made it clear that the FDA action does not encompass genetically engineered salmon in general.

The draft environmental assessment is associated only with the particular application from AquaBounty Technologies, DeLancey said.

 “We have not made a final conclusion about the safety of food from these fish, nor have we approved the application,” she added. “This is only the draft EA [Environmental Assessment] and FONSI [Finding of No Significant Impact ], which is one of the interim steps toward a final decision on the application. FDA is inviting public comment on the EA and FONSI for the next 60 days, then will review those comments.”

Meanwhile, Consumers Union, Yonkers, N.Y.-based advocacy and policy arm of Consumer Reports, criticized the FDA’s announced environmental assessment as flawed and inadequate.

“There are unanswered questions about the Panama fish,” Michael Hansen, Consumer Union’s senior scientist, told SN. “Testing was done on Prince Edward Island, Canada, but the actual salmon are expected to be raised in Panama. Conditions differ.”

The sample was too small and testing inadequate, Hansen concluded. He also pointed out that while one of the reasons given to raise GE salmon is that the fish mature quicker, some domestic, conventionally raised salmon mature just as quickly.

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