David Senior professor of veterinary medicine at Louisiana State University. (Photo: LSU edu)
Experts urge to delay approving GM salmon
Tuesday, September 21, 2010, 23:00 (GMT + 9)
A group of independent experts have urged the US authorities on Monday, to do more studies before allowing a genetically modified salmon to become the first transgenic animal to hit American dinner tables.
"We are sending a message for further studies," said David Senior, a professor of veterinary medicine at Louisiana State University and chair of a committee of independent experts consulted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The 14-member committee did not vote but most agreed that the studies undertaken so far were insufficient to determine with any certainty whether the genetically altered salmon proposed by AquaBounty Technologies pose a risk to humans or the environment.
They reached the conclusion at the end of a long day of deliberations at a hotel in the Washington suburb of Rockville.
The agency turned to the committee of independent experts after concluding in early September, based on company data, that the modified fish is safe for human consumption and the environment.
The fish, a new Atlantic salmon with a growth hormone gene from the chinook salmon that allows it to grow faster, "is as safe as food from conventional Atlantic salmon," the FDA said in a 3 September statement on the agency's website.
"There is a reasonable certainty of no harm from consumption of food from this animal," which is the creation of Massachusetts-based AquaBounty Technologies.
The FDA is not bound to follow the recommendations of its experts group, but generally does so.
The Massachusetts-based AquaBounty argues that its fish, injected with a gene from the Pacific chinook salmon, can reach adult size in 16 to 18 months instead of 30 months for normal Atlantic salmon.
The company said that in all other respects, its AquAdvantage salmon "are identical to other Atlantic salmon."
The new strain could help meet rising demand for fish and reduce pressure on wild fish stocks, the firm contends. It says it can avoid the pollution, disease and other problems associated with saltwater fish farms by raising the salmon at inland facilities.
AquaBounty has tried for several years to get the green light from the FDA to breed and market its GMO salmon and appears to be close to its goal. The company has said it would take two to three years from FDA approval before its salmon would hit store shelves.
If GMO salmon is given the green light, consumer groups are demanding that the FDA require it to carry a GMO label, even though supporters of the new salmon argue that such a label might lead consumers to shun the fish.
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