Federal Court in California Rules Genetically Engineering Salmon Unlawful

A federal court judge for the Northern District of California has ruled that the Food and Drug Administration violated core environmental laws in approving genetically engineered salmon.

U.S. District Court Judge Vince Chhabria noted that as part of the approval process the FDA assessed the likelihood that GE salmon would escape from captivity and adversely affect normal salmon, including salmon species that are endangered. While the FDA concluded that the GE salmon were highly unlikely to escape from two facilities where AquaBounty initially planned to raise them, the FDA did not meaningfully analyze what might happen to normal salmon in the event that the GE salmon survived and established themselves in the wild, Chhabria said. Even if such a scenario was unlikely, the FDA was required to assess the consequences of it happening, he said.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, applauded the ruling.

“The impacts that genetically engineered salmon could have on Alaskans, our commercial fishing industry and seafood consumers all over the world are concerning, and as this ruling found, understudied,” Murkowski said. The ruling confirms the FDA’s decision to allow GE salmon to be produced in different locations across North American was in violation of the law, and did not consider the potential for severe consequences on nature’s best brain food, wild salmon,” she said.
The Alaskan Republican noted that she has introduced legislation for years identifying those exact flaws in the FDA’s “wholly inadequate assessment of the threat GE salmon poses to wild salmon stocks.”

Murkowski added “I’m glad the court has caught up with my reasoning and recognized the concerns raised by many Alaskans about GE salmon.”

The judge has remanded portions of the case to the Food and Drug Administration for reconsideration of its environmental assessment under the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Special Act analysis in compliance with the ruling.