Environmental Impacts of Genetically Engineered Salmon

Salmon on Ice

The Food and Drug Administration recently released the environmental assessment for AquaBounty’s AquAdvantage salmon. They are asking for comments about the document.

The environmental assessment contains a description of the genetically engineered salmon, how it would be raised, and its potential impact on the environment, if it were to escape. The document is 158 pages long and online in pdf format.

Reading through the description of the AquAdvantage salmon, I noticed a heavy reliance on comparisons with earlier fish genetically engineered by AquaBounty. It is these AquAdvantage relatives that are judged to have a (slightly) lower likelihood of surviving escape, less discriminate in choosing prey, and more likely to engage in risky behavior, like feeding near a predator. The AquAdvantage salmon doesn’t seem to have been tested for these traits.

In the section detailing the growout facility in Panama, the warm waters surrounding the site are considered lethal for Atlantic salmon. However, there is no mention of the temperature tolerance for AquAdvantage salmon.

There is not much information in the environmental assessment that is specific to the AquAdvantage salmon. It seems like the approval of this animal should depend entirely on the characteristics of the animal, and not on the characteristics of other related animals.

To comment, go to the federal register online at regulations.gov and search for AquAdvantage to find docket FDA-2011-N-0899. This link will take you directly to the docket page. The third primary document, β€œDraft Environmental Assessment for Genetically Engineered Atlantic Salmon (AquAdvantage Salmon)” is the full document.

The FDA has said in the past that they pass over general comments and consider only specific comments related directly to the regulation. When commenting, be specific. The comment period is open until 25 Feb 2013.

Salmon on ice photo via Shutterstock

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