FDA removes restrictions on genetically modified salmon

More than three years after the FDA approved, for the first time, a genetically engineered animal as safe to eat, the government opened the door for AquaBounty Technologies to grow and sell its GE salmon in the U.S.

Congress in 2016 directed the FDA not to allow food into the USA that contained genetically engineered salmon until the agency implemented superior labeling guidelines for informing people that certain foods contained the altered salmon.

The FDA said it deactivated on Friday an import alert that blocked import of the salmon.

The Food and Drug Administration on Friday lifted an import alert that stopped genetically engineered salmon - called "Frankenfish" by some critics - from entering the United States, the agency announced in a news release.

AquAdvantage genetically engineers salmon by using a growth hormone regulating gene from Pacific chinook salmon with a promoter gene from ocean pout, an eel-like fish.

In context: The U.S. has long used genetically modified (GM) plant crops in its food chains, but so far has had no GM animals on sale for human consumption.

In late 2015, just after FDA approval of the GE salmon, activists said they had commitments from 10 US grocery chains not to sell the salmon.

As the Associated Press reported, however, a "coalition of consumer, environmental and fishing groups" filed a lawsuit asking for the FDA's approval of the fish to be overturned. According to the AP, AquaBounty says that it expects its IN farm to soon receive final certification, and the salmon will take about 18 months to grow to a harvest size of 5kg after they arrive.

A photo provided by AquaBountyTechnologies shows salmon eggs at the company's hatchery in Fortune, Prince Edward Island, Canada.

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".

The salmon are bred to all be female and sterile and they are raised in tanks, AP reported, measures aimed at addressing any fears the fish might get into the environment and breed with wild fish. The Center for Food Safety and other interest groups are suing the FDA in order to prevent the salmon being raised and sold. "FDA's actions will allow for production and sale to begin here in the US, bringing opportunity for investment in rural America, creating American jobs, while also reducing dependence on seafood imports", Wulf said in a statement.

He also noted the disclosure regulation uses the term "bioengineered", even though most people are more familiar with the term genetically modified.

In a statement to FOX Business, AquaBounty said if all goes well, it plans to have its first harvest by the Fall of 2020.

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