Move ends a years-long political standoff over the fish driven by salmon-state lawmakers
It looks as if a whole new "Non-GMO" verified market is set to open in the US. That's because GM salmon will soon appear on the market without a meaningful label stating its GMO status. The only way for consumers to be sure of non-GMO status will be to look for a "Non-GMO" verified certification label.
FDA paves way for GMO salmon to hit market
By HELENA BOTTEMILLER EVICH and LIZ CRAMPTON
Politico, March 8, 2019
The FDA on Friday cleared the sale of genetically engineered salmon in the U.S. for the first time since the fish was approved as the first biotech animal for human consumption more than three years ago.
The move appears to end a yearslong political standoff over the fish driven by salmon-state lawmakers.
The agency announced it will drop an import alert that had banned genetically engineered salmon and salmon eggs from entering the U.S. since 2016. The alert was put in place after a spending bill provision backed by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) blocked the fish from entering commerce in the U.S. until FDA finalized labeling guidelines that would inform consumers the product was genetically modified.
FDA on Friday said it no longer needs to finalize those labeling guidelines because a 2016 law requiring the disclosure of genetically engineered ingredients nationwide applies to the salmon, essentially taking the product outside of FDA’s purview.
USDA at the end of last year released guidance to implement the law that directs companies to disclose the presence of genetically modified ingredients in food products through use of either a QR code or on-package display of text or a designated symbol. That regulation is set to take full effect in January 2022.
FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said the agency believes USDA’s new rules have “satisfied” the congressional labeling mandate.
Taking down the import alert allows a genetically engineered product, AquAdvantage Salmon eggs, to be brought into the U.S., where it can be used in the company’s land-based operation in Indiana. The fish, developed by Massachusetts biotech company AquaBounty, combines a growth hormone gene from Pacific Chinook salmon with a gene from a species known as ocean pout, and adding that to an Atlantic salmon. AquAdvantage salmon can grow year-round and more quickly than traditionally bred salmon, and are poised to rival wild-caught and farmed salmon in the market.
"It's long overdue and we are ecstatic," Sylvia Wulf, CEO of AquaBounty, said Friday.
Without additional interruptions, the salmon could be on the market as early as 2020.
Wulf said the company plans to move quickly to produce the product at its main production facility in Indiana. The company expects to be able to import eggs in the next few weeks and soon be able to grow 1,200 metric tons of fish — enough to supply a national retailer.
FDA in 2015 determined that the genetically engineered salmon is safe to eat after a lengthy review that lasted more than 20 years. Over the years, environmental and anti-GMO activists have opposed approving the fish, arguing there could be unintended consequences for human health and the environment.
The product remains the only genetically engineered animal approved by the agency for human consumption.