WASHINGTON — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration last week ended three days of hearings without deciding whether Waltham, Mass.-based AquaBounty Technologies will be allowed to sell genetically modified salmon for human consumption. Instead, the agency has said it will file an Environmental Assessment of the salmon, which will be followed by a federally mandated 30-day public comment period.
AquaBounty's salmon is an Atlantic salmon that has been modified with genes from Chinook salmon and ocean pout fish. The resulting fish require less feed and grow at twice the rate of normal salmon, which would make them lucrative for aquaculture operations.
However, Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, is one of many consumer advocacy groups that have raised concerns about genetically engineered animals. In a national poll conducted in 2008, CU found that 95% of U.S. adults believe that food from genetically engineered animals should be labeled, and 78% “strongly agreed” with this.
During the hearings, Michael Hansen, senior scientist for CU, argued that the FDA should classify genetic modification as a New Animal Drug, and assess it based on the agency's more rigorous standards for approval of those drugs.
“Data from a mere six salmon, which is all FDA presents, is not sufficient nor rigorous enough to conclude that no problem exists,” Hansen said.