Green Right Now Reports

The Food and Drug Administration appears to be within a few weeks of approving genetically modified (GM) salmon, despite a massive public outcry that the engineered fish could be unsafe and consumers do not want it.

The FDA’s approval is expected since the agency released a preliminary report on Dec. 21 that deemed the fish as safe as regular, non-altered Atlantic salmon. That conclusion was widely taken as a sign that the FDA would grant the request by the “Aquabounty” company to produce and sell GM salmon, despite public opposition to what critics call a “Frankenfish.”

AquaBounty’s GM salmon dwarfs a regular salmon of the same age.

Final approval could come after a 60-day comment period expires.

The GM salmon, a variant of Atlantic Salmon created by added a genes from an eel (for year round growth) and from bigger Pacific salmon, have been genetically engineered to grow larger and twice as fast as their natural cousins. Thus, farming them will be more profitable.

But critics worry that they have not been adequately tested for potential health effects in humans who will consume them, and that the FDA has not been a strict door keeper on GM or GE foods. Nearly two decades ago, the agency determined that crops like genetically modified corn and soybeans to be “essentially” the same as their natural counterparts, even though the pertinent safety studies at the time were industry-produced and remain mostly secret to this day.

Opponents also are angry that the newfangled fish won’t be labeled as genetically modified in the marketplace, a detail that infuriates Andrew Kimbrell, head of  the nonprofit Center for Food Safety.

“It is extremely disappointing that the Obama Administration continues to push approval of this dangerous and unnecessary product. The GE salmon has no socially redeeming value; it’s bad for the consumer, bad for the salmon industry and bad for the environment.  FDA’s decision is premature and misguided.” executive director Andrew Kimbrell said in a December statement.

“We need a robust regulatory system that puts environmental, human health, economic and animal welfare risks first,” said Kimbrell. “Putting a GE animal on the path to consumer use without proper safeguards and with no mandatory labeling requirement proves that the system FDA has in place gives us none of that.”

Kimbrell’s statement detailed the opposition to the new salmon, which would be the first genetically engineered animals to enter the food supply, opening the gates to GM cattle, pigs and other livestock entering the US market. Many other developed nations, such as the European Union, have rejected such genetically engineered foods as potentially harmful and not well studied. Many nations have banned or imposed restrictions on foods made from GE plants and animals.

According to Kimbrell’s Center for Food Safety, the FDA ignored calls from more than 40 members of Congress who asked for a more rigorous review of the health and safety impacts of the GM salmon.

FDA also seems poised to overlook nearly 400,000 public comments demanding that FDA reject the Aquabounty application, the statement noted.

Friends of the Earth (FOE) another group fighting approval has called upon its followers to write to the FDA asking for a more thorough exploration of the health effects of GM fish.

“FDA’s fatally-flawed assessment fails to take into account the very real risk that these fish pose to endangered wild salmon, the environment, public health and our fishing communities on both coasts,” team leaders at FOE wrote in a statement issued today.

One bright spot for those who’re concerned: The GM salmon are reportedly sterile, which means those that escape or are released into the wild would be less likely to contaminate wild fisheries.