Judge orders FDA to assess potential impact of escaped GM AquAdvantage salmon on wild fish

Spawning Atlantic Salmon

The Food and Drug Administration must evaluate the risks posed if genetically engineered salmon escape into the wild, a federal judge said in a case involving FDA’s 2015 approval of AquaBounty’s plans to create and farm GE Atlantic salmon.

FDA’s analysis, contained in an environmental assessment prepared under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), “essentially stopped without assessing the possibility of harm to the natural salmon species in the unlikely event of [GE] salmon establishing themselves in the wild,” U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria said in a ruling issued [Nov. 5].

The judge declined to shut down operations at the Indiana facility where AquaBounty is currently raising fish and making “continued progress towards the first-ever commercial scale harvest of AquAdvantage salmon,” AquaBounty CEO Sylvia Wulf said [Nov. 4] in releasing the company’s third-quarter results.

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Chhabria said that “revoking the [FDA’s] approval would presumably require the current stock of salmon to be destroyed, a significant loss of property and animal life that would be wasteful given the real possibility that the FDA will be able to cure the NEPA and ESA errors on remand.”

“But because the FDA took the risk of escape seriously and imposed conditions designed to prevent escape, the short-term threat to the environment from engineered salmon at the Prince Edward Island facility (and, for that matter, the Indiana facility) is low,” he said.

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