FDA Bans GE salmon, Pending Guidelines

Don’t look for genetically engineered salmon on grocery store shelves any time soon.

In the wake of its decision in November approving the AquaAdvantage salmon that a Massachusetts-based firm says it will produce, the Food and Drug Administration banned import and sale of the product until labeling guidelines are published.

Not that it would likely be available in any event for more than a year from now, according to Dave Conley, a company spokesperson in Ottawa, who said today that AquaBounty, based in Massachusetts, still has a lot of planning to do.

AquaBounty describes itself as a small company that wants to raise the genetically engineered Atlantic salmon in specially designed buildings in Canada and Panama, using a process that requires 20-25 percent less feed than other farmed Atlantic salmon on the market today.

Opponents of genetically modified fish have mounted a steady campaign to keep AquaAdvantage salmon off of the market period.

The FDA’s ban pending the publication of labeling guidelines was announced on Jan. 29, and quickly hailed by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who called FDA’s action “a huge step in our fight against ‘Frankenfish’. Murkowski was successful in securing a provision in the omnibus spending bill to keep AquaAdvantage salmon out of retail markets until labeling guidelines are finalized.

Murkowski notes that she adamantly opposed the FDA’s decision to allow GE salmon into America’s kitchens and tables in the first place. She said mandatory labeling guidelines must be put in place as soon as possible so consumears know what it is they are buying. It seems, Murkowski said “that the FDA has begun to listen, and I hope this is a sign that the agency plans to develop these necessary guidelines.

AquaBounty produce is an Atlantic salmon with a growth hormone from a Chinook salmon and a gene from Ocean pout, with the combined effect of speeding growth to a marketable size in 18 months rather than three years.

Conley said that AquaBounty currently has a hatchery in Canada producing salmon eggs, and a facility in Panama primarily engaged in research and development, plus minimal stocks of fish.

Conley said the company plans to be price competitive, noting that price is key to buying decisions of many consumers, but had no comment on how potential labeling of fish that is genetically modified would affect sales.