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Will Genetically Modified Salmon Be Approved by FDA? Fisheries Worry That It Could Cause Major Harm to Natural Fishery

EINNEWS, November 17---The U.S. Food and Drug Administration appears to be on the verge of permitting the farming of genetically modified salmon, a move that one expert relates to triggering a Jurassic Park-like event.

The proposal comes from a private company, AquaBounty, that is anxious to begin farming a genetically modified salmon specie off the coast of Maine. The company claims that the salmon produced would be sterile and would represent no danger to wild salmon.

The FDA authorized AquaBounty to conduct a series of studies to determine whether the product is safe for human consumption. The public comment period on the proposed action ends November 22 and it is widely expected that the FDA will give its approval shortly thereafter.

While the FDA is considering the salmon as a food, the FDA also is required to conduct an environmental impact statement to determine whether its approval could negatively affect the human environment.

The advocacy group Food & Water Watch has released emails and other internal documents from the Department of Interior's Fish & Wildlife Service, which it gained access to through the Freedom of Information Act, that raises doubts about whether the FDA has complied with the environmental impact requirement, or seriously considered the impact of the new specie on existing wild stocks.

As late as last month, Food & Water Watch says, the FDA had not adequately consulted with either the Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service.

In one of the agency emails, Food & Watch quotes a regional Fish and Wildlife geneticist congratulating a co-worker for pointing out "there is no data to support the claims of a low survival rate in the event of escape, which I agree with you all is a big concern. I also agree that using triploid fish (which AquaBounty claims to have undergone a sterilization process) is not foolproof. Maybe they (the FDA) should watch Jurassic Park."

AquaBounty has conceded that up to 5 percent of its genetically engineered salmon eggs could be fertile, which would pose a risk to the natural salmon specie if any of the fertile salmon escaped from the company's facility.

While AquaBounty claims there is no likelihood of that, one Fish and Wildlife Service supervisor is quoted as saying, "No matter what precautions you take, fish escape and once they do there is no closing the door."

In the documents, high-ranking FWS employees, including Jeff Adams, a branch chief, complain of the FDA's failure to consult with FWS as required by law.

"The proposal [to approve AquaBounty salmon] also presents a situation where FDA, whose jurisdiction is not focused on natural resources, is entrusted with the authority to approve an application which poses such a threat to the country's natural resources," Adams said.

For more seafood news, visit Seafood News Today (http://seafood.einnews.com/), a seafood media monitoring service from EIN News.

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