In a historic decision, the US Food and Drug Administration has approved the first genetically modified animal for consumption, a salmon engineered by a company called AquaBounty Technologies.
The fish, known as the AquAdvantage salmon, is a modified form of the Atlantic salmon that can grow to market size in half the time as a non-engineered, farmed salmon. The fish will take at least two more years to reach consumers, though some major supermarkets, like Kroger and Safeway, have already pledged not to sell the engineered salmon. Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods have also promised not to carry AquAdvantage salmon.
In a statement, the FDA said that it had “thoroughly analyzed and evaluated the data and information submitted by AquaBounty regarding the AquAdvantage salmon and determined that they have met the regulatory requirements for approval, including that food from the fish is safe to eat.”
The news has prompted no small amount of concern from consumers, public health experts, and environmental groups, especially given that the salmon will not have to be labeled as being genetically engineered. Companies could, however, choose to label the salmon, the FDA said.
At the moment, AquaBounty’s only approved production facility is in Panama. The facility is capable of producing roughly 100 tons of fish per year — compared to the more than 200,000 tons of Atlantic salmon imported annually into the U.S. — but the company will look to build another hatchery in the United States and expand its hatchery in Canada, which supplies the Panama facility.