GMO Salmon Coming to Stores

Genetically modified Salmon will soon be in stores after being approved by the FDA

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Genetically modified Salmon will soon be in stores after being approved by the FDA

In 2015, GMO salmon was declared safe by the Food and Drug Administration. During this time, Congress was figuring out how genetically modified foods would be organized. As a result, the FDA halted the import of GMO fish until labeling issues were solved. However, last year, the USDA proclaimed that labeling issues for bioengineered foods had been resolved. Soon, a frankenfish may be on people’s dinner plate by the end of this year.

Genetically engineered salmon by AquAdvantage was approved for human consumption by the FDA. Soon after, in March of 2019, the ban on imported fish was lifted and contemplating finalization of guidelines for bioengineered foods. Because of this, salmon is the first genetically modified animal that is approved for human consumption.

An AquAdvantage salmon is genetically engineered to grow to market size twice as fast as a conventional Atlantic salmon which takes 32 to 36 months to reach the required size. These salmon contain a growth hormone gene found in the quickly growing Pacific Chinook as well as a promoter sequence (a fragment of DNA) taken from an ocean pout. When combined, the gene and promoter sequence enable the salmon to grow year-round instead of seasonally which is how wild and farmed salmon grow.

Research on genetically engineered salmon began earlier than most may think. Initially, the investigation started in the mid-1980s, and after years of research, the correct DNA sequence and access to a growth hormone gene lead to the first transgenic salmon was created in 1989. However, this salmon wasn’t approved until almost twenty years later.

AquAdvantage salmon were made to meet the demand for salmon. In 2014, salmon was the second most consumed seafood in the U.S., and these fish are either caught in the wild from commercial fishing or through fish farming. Since the 1990s, wild Atlantic salmon populations have been in decline. The reason behind this is the fact that 90 percent of the world’s fisheries have collapsed, have been fully exploited, or over-exploited and salmon was one of the first to go due to their size. Other reasons for the decline is due to overfishing, pollution, habitat deterioration, environmental changes, and disturbances to migration roots. Unfortunately, salmon populations have reached dangerously low levels with many communities completely disappearing, and yet seafood consumption will almost double by 2050.

   A solution to the growing demands is to raise genetically modified salmon. After 20- years of research, evaluations, development, and regulations these AquAdvantage salmon gained the FDA’s safety approval.

Consumers will know if foods contain GMO in one of the three following ways: a symbol on the packaging, text on the packaging that is labeled ‘bioengineered food’ or ‘contains a bioengineered food ingredient.’ It may also be labeled with a phone number to text or a QR code where people can get more information.

GMO salmon is expected to be on store shelves as early as 2020. Back in 2013 which was before the FDA declared GMO salmon safe to consume, many grocery chains such as Trader Joe’s, Aldi and Target pledged not to carry the bioengineered fish. These promises were made in 2013 and retailers have not replied to the FDA announcement yet.

Although the word GMO has been associated with danger, things may change soon. This genetically modified salmon may be an answer to the shrinking population of salmon. Hopefully, these salmon bring humanity one step closer to preserving life on Earth.