The Food and Drug Administration in the USA announced on Friday that it is lifting an import ban that prevented a brand of genetically modified salmon - dubbed "Frankenfish" by some - from reaching US shopping selves, CNN reported.
Following years of health and safety assessments, the salmon became the first GM animal to be approved for human consumption by the FDA in 2015. AquaAdvantage Salmon contains intentional genomic alterations (IGAs) and is genetically engineered to reach market size more rapidly than its non-GE, farm-raised Atlantic salmon counterpart.
However, Congress blocked the FDA from allowing the fish to be sold in the United States until guidelines for disclosing that a food had been genetically modified were implemented.
This new technology has allowed the salmon to grow twice as fast with 25 percent less feed. George Kimbrell of the Center for Food Safety, one of several groups that have formed a coalition to sue the FDA over its approval of genetically engineered salmon, tells the Associated Press that there are environmental risks associated with the fish's rearing in the US.
"We will immediately start the process to import AquAdvantage eggs from our hatchery in Canada to begin grow out at our in facility", said Wulf.
The administration finally lifted the import alert after the Congress brought into effect its latest National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard, which the agency believes meets the labeling requirements. The FDA also studied the environmental impact of the genetically engineered fish and found that it "would not cause a significant impact on the US environment".
However, Wulf added that it has been hard to engage in sales discussions with companies since the ban, but she said limited quantities have been sold in Canada, where it doesn't have to be labeled as "genetically modified".
On Friday, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said because of the 2016 law and the USDA's standard, his agency "no longer has the authority to issue labeling guidance".
In its 2015 finding, the FDA said the salmon is safe to eat and the genetic material added to the fish's genome is safe for the animal.
The U.S. fishing industry can't be expected to welcome this news since it is already challenged by dwindling salmon runs and limits on when and where the fish can legally be harvested. Therefore, the FDA is deactivating the import alert that prevented food from AquAdvantage Salmon, including salmon eggs used to grow the fish, from entering the U.S. Aquabounty chief Sylvia Wulf told the AP she expected certification for an IN growing facility IN "weeks" and could receive eggs soon afterward, but it would take about 18 months for the salmon to reach their target weight. The original NADA only specified AquaBounty's facility on Prince Edward Island, Canada, where the salmon eggs are produced, and the company's grow-out facility in Panama. Wulf said she doesn't expect the pending lawsuit to affect the company's USA plans.
However, they're also bred to be female and sterile, theoretically eliminating he possibility that they'll breed with wild salmon.