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Modified Salmon Is Safe, FDA Says

September 10, 2010

Hundreds of media outlets reported on the analysis and other materials related to the AquAdvantage salmon that was released by FDA September 3. Mainstream media coverage included articles in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Denver Post, Discover Magazine and CNN, which also posted an online video news clip.

A salmon genetically engineered to grow quickly is safe to eat and poses little risk to the environment, the Food and Drug Administration said Friday. The assessment makes it more likely that the fish will become the first genetically engineered animal to enter the American food supply.

Food from the salmon “is as safe as food from conventional Atlantic salmon,” the FDA said in its analysis, which was posted on its Web site Friday. “There is a reasonable certainty of no harm from consumption of food from this animal.”

The salmon can grow to market size in 16 to 18 months instead of the 30 required for a regular farmed Atlantic salmon, according to its developer, AquaBounty Technologies of Waltham, Mass. AquaBounty has been trying for years to win approval for the salmon, a goal that now appears within reach. The analysis by the FDA staff was in preparation for three days of public meetings on the salmon that will start on Sept. 19. The FDA is expected to make a final decision on approval in the weeks after the meetings.

A coalition of anti-industry groups voiced opposition to the approval last week, citing, in particular, concerns that the salmon could escape and possibly outcompete wild salmon for food or mates. But AquaBounty said the fish would be grown only inland. And only sterile females will be sold, limiting any ability to reproduce. The FDA, in its analysis, basically agreed that the chance of escape or ecological disruption was small. The salmon “are not expected to have a significant impact on the quality of the human environment,” it concluded.