FDA Panel Can’t Make Heads or Tails of Genetically Modified Salmon

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REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

As you’ve probably heard by now, the first genetically engineered animal grown for food may soon be on the market. But not quite yet. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panel assigned to assess the safety of the new salmon, called AquAdvantage, was unable to come to a conclusion about its safety or make a recommendation for approval today. The problem?

Data provided by the salmon’s manufacturer, AquaBounty Technologies, did not contain large enough sample sizes to make its findings statistically significant, the panel determined. So the data could not be used by the panel’s biochemists and veterinarians to make a judgment about the salmon’s safety. Considering that AquaBounty’s CEO has a doctorate in biochemistry himself — and that he had more than 10 years to provide adequate data — that’s pretty embarrassing.

But despite their apprehension, most of the panel members anticipated that further studies would corroborate the company’s current findings, which conclude that genetically modified salmon is as safe to eat as natural Atlantic salmon. On Sept. 4, FDA scientists agreed with that take.

“In some areas, we said we need more information to do the analysis. I think the agency is going to take its time with this, but I anticipate at some point this will be approved by the FDA,” Gregory Jaffe, an FDA panel member who is the biotechnology director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, told the Washington Post.

Following Tuesday’s deliberation over how to label the new fish should it win approval, the advisory panel will conclude its meeting.

For an excellent run down of the potential environmental implications of genetically modified salmon, see Bryan Walsh’s post over at Ecocentric.

More salmon coverage:

How I Learned to Love Farmed Fish

Is Genetically Modified Salmon Safe?

6 Genetically Modified Foods That Changed the World