The Food and Drug Administration on Friday lifted an import alert that stopped genetically engineered salmon - called "Frankenfish" by some critics - from entering the United States, the agency announced in a news release.
Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, who blocked USA sale of the AquAdvantage salmon since 2015, said she is skeptical that federal GMO food labeling rules will mandate labeling of the fish, so she is pursuing legislation to require "genetically engineered" to appear in the market name.
"The Golden Gate Salmon Association and allied groups are now in court challenging the approval of farmed salmon carrying foreign genes that change the basic DNA of the fish", said John McManus, president, Golden Gate Salmon Association.
However, in 2016, Congress directed FDA not to allow food that contains GE salmon into commerce until final GE labeling guidelines were in place.
AquaBounty Technologies, Inc. said the lifting of the import alert would allow the Company to start farming AquAdvantage Salmon in Indiana. "Therefore, the FDA is deactivating the import alert that prevented food from AquAdvantage Salmon, including salmon eggs used to grow the fish, from entering the U.S." he claimed. The move, announced on Friday (March 8), will allow AquaBounty to import AquAdvantage salmon eggs from its research and development center in Canada, grow them in the United States, and then sell them as food labeled "bioengineered", although the company is likely to face further challenges before it can do so.
The agency said it no longer has authority to issue labeling guidelines for GMO products such as AquAdvantage Salmon since the U.S. Department of Agriculture is now in charge of implementing mandatory standards for disclosing whether a food is bioengineered following the recent adoption of the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard.
A photo provided by AquaBountyTechnologies shows salmon eggs at the company's hatchery in Fortune, Prince Edward Island, Canada.
According to FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, the genetic changes made on AquaAdvantage Salmon are safe and would have no significant impact on the environment or the people who will consume it. However, as of now, only a limited number of the genetically modified salmons are available in Canadian markets.
However, in 2016, Congress later blocked the FDA from allowing the fish to be sold in the US until it finalized its labeling guidelines alerting customers that the fish has been altered.
As the Associated Press reported, however, a "coalition of consumer, environmental and fishing groups" filed a lawsuit asking for the FDA's approval of the fish to be overturned.
AquaBounty CEO Sylvia Wulf said the company expects to get a final certification for its Albany, Indiana, growing facility in the coming weeks. "FDA's actions will allow for production and sale to begin here in the USA, bringing opportunity for investment in rural America, creating American jobs, while also reducing dependence on seafood imports", Wulf said in a statement.
"We think a remedy in our case would stop sale of the fish before they're allowed to be sold", said George Kimbrell, legal director for the Center for Food Safety, one of the groups suing the FDA.
Congress said rules on how genetically modified food is labeled had to be implemented first.
In a statement to FOX Business, AquaBounty said if all goes well, it plans to have its first harvest by the Fall of 2020.