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What’s Grosser than Gross? GMO Salmon with FDA Approval

— December 2, 2015

The goal was to out-do your competition by coming up with the grossest thing. Today, we’re going to play a short round of that old game. What’s grosser than gross? Genetically engineered salmon with fresh FDA approval.

Some of you may remember the game, “What’s Grosser than Gross?” from junior high or high school. The goal was to out-do your competition by coming up with the grossest thing. Today, we’re going to play a short round of that old game. What’s grosser than gross? GMO salmon with FDA approval.

Just before Thanksgiving, the FDA announced its approval of the first GMO animal meant for human consumption. AquaBounty Technologies’ AquAdvantage salmon is the lucky recipient. Critics allege that the FDA didn’t do enough to properly assess the possible environmental impact of this latest “frankenfood.”


According to the FDA, these critics can go suck a fish egg. The agency is comfortable with the GMO salmon as presented by AquaBounty. It also examined peer-reviewed data it believes shows the frankenfish to be just as nutritious and safe to eat as non-GMO Atlantic salmon.

The agency applied a few conditions to its approval. The GMO salmon cannot be bred in the U.S. by request of AquaBounty. The company specifically asked that the two approved locations, one located in Panama, the other in Canada, be the only ones allowed to “grow” the fish. These facilities were specifically engineered to make the salmon grow faster.

The director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Susan Mayne said, “The approval is only for conditions that were specified in the application. They did not expressly ask for other facilities. If AquaBounty wants to build another facility, then they must file a supplemental application, and we’d have to do another environmental assessment.”

What about the criticized assessment already conducted?

The FDA is sure that the GMO salmon wouldn’t negatively impact the environment. AquaBounty’s facilities, claims the agency, have strict containment rules that must be followed. Funny, I’ll bet the nuclear engineers at Chernobyl said the same thing about their power plant.

These rules state that the fish can only be grown in “land-based, contained hatchery tanks” that are equipped with “multiple and redundant” physical barriers in both the plumbing and the tanks to keep the GMO salmon and eggs from reaching an outside water source.

Ronald Stotish, AquaBounty’s CEO, issued the following statement. “AquAdvantage Salmon is a game-changer that brings healthy and nutritious food to consumers in an environmentally responsible manner without damaging the ocean and other marine habitats. Using land-based aquaculture systems, this rich source of protein and other nutrients can be farmed close to major consumer markets in a more sustainable manner.”

The Center for Food Safety, a food advocacy group, is planning to sue the FDA over it approval of the GMO salmon. The Center has serious issues with AquaBounty’s – and the FDA’s – claims.

For instance, both proponents of the frankenfish insist that they cannot reproduce on their own. Neither are they able to interbreed with wild salmon should the “foolproof” containment measures fail. Not true, according to the Center for Food Safety. It cites at least one Canadian study that proves the GMO salmon can interbreed with brown trout.

Andrew Kimbrell, the Center’s executive director said, “The review process by FDA was inadequate, failed to fully examine the likely impacts of the salmon’s introduction, and lacked a comprehensive analysis. This decision sets a dangerous precedent, lowering the standards of safety in this country.”

Here’s a question for you: what about the impact of GMO salmon on the humans who ultimately consume it?


According to Pamela Bailey, CEO of the industry group the Grocery Manufacturers Association, “The FDA made the right decision for the right reasons, standing with sound science and recognizing that the world’s most respected and authoritative scientific and regulatory bodies have repeatedly found genetically engineered (GE) ingredients to be safe. We look forward to continuing to work with Congress to enact a uniform national standard for food labeling that would prevent a costly and confusing patchwork of state labeling mandates.”

Um. Sure. Because no one ever got sick from GMO corn treated with Roundup®

At least we have the choice to not buy GMO salmon, right? That’s a qualified “maybe.”

The FDA doesn’t currently require mandatory labeling of GMO “food” products. The FDA’s Mayne said that food manufacturers would only need to state on their labels how the GMO salmon differs (if at all) from non-GMO salmon. However, they don’t necessarily need to state that those differences are due solely to genetic engineering.

I do not find this very comforting.

Of course, one frankenanimal could well pave the way for more. The FDA said it would decide the status of new applications on a “case by case basis.” It did not, however, say how many such applications it is currently reviewing.

So, if your daughter or son ever comes home from school and says, “Hey! What’s grosser than gross?” you now have the perfect answer: sort of sterile, genetically engineered salmon that can only be “grown” in special tanks.

Suggestion: don’t serve fish that night.


Engineered Salmon Is 1st Animal To Win FDA Food Approval

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