The Associated Press recently published an update on Aquabounty’s GMO salmon. In case you haven’t been following this issue, Aquabounty was poised to become the world’s first company to sell fish whose DNA has been altered to speed up growth. This “frankenfish” became a rallying cry for the anti-GMO movement in America, spawning hundreds of thousands of public comments and petition signatures.
Now, it seems that Aquabounty is running out of money, and may have to shut its doors before the genetically modified seafood makes it to market. Normally, the slow-moving wheels of government bureaucracy are criticized for obstructing American innovation, but in this case, they’re doing anti-GMO advocates a huge favor.
Despite early evaluations from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that declared Aquabounty salmon was ‘as safe to eat as the traditional variety’ the idea of selling unmarked GMOs over the seafood counter alarmed many Americans. This outcry, which included dubious reports from the scientific community, sparked a new round of FDA review. That was two years ago, and although there have been several scares, the FDA still hasn’t approved the fish. Coincidentally, this paralysis may accomplish what direct action hasn’t been able to.
“It’s threatening our very survival,” CEO Ron Stotish, chief executive of the Maynard, Mass.-based company, told the AP. “We only have enough money to survive until January 2013, so we have to raise more. But the unexplained delay has made raising money very difficult.”
The FDA says it’s in the final stages of its environmental impact statement (EIS), a particularly important part of the process. If Aquabounty’s farmed GMO salmon were to escape and breed with wild salmon, the entire species would be at risk. It could quickly become impossible to know if any commercial salmon was GMO or not. This isn’t an easy risk to assess, and the FDA says that even when the EIS is complete, it must be published for comment before an approval can be issued. That means a final decision could be months, even years away.
If Aquabounty folds before final approval is issued, it will be a victory, but the domino effect will be even better. As of right now, Aquabounty is the only company in the country seeking approval for a genetically modified animal to be eaten by humans. Rest assured, other potential purveyors of unlabeled GMOs are waiting in the wings, watching what happens in this case. The AP report claims the FDA’s lengthy review process “could discourage other U.S. companies from investing in animal biotechnology, or the science of manipulating animal DNA to produce a desirable trait.”
You say that like it’s a bad thing.
Yes, other biotech companies should be paying attention. Business works on supply and demand, right? Well if Aquabounty fails, it will be because thousands of citizens spoke out against being forced to eat unlabeled GMOs. We don’t want franken fish on our plates, and we’re willing to say so. We’re also willing to shut the doors of one GMO company as a warning to the rest.
Update: The FDA has quietly released its draft environmental assessment [PDF], approving Aquabounty’s GMO salmon a second time. The decision must be open to public comment for 60 days. Now is the time to act. PLEASE take a few moments to voice your concerns on the government regulations website. Click here and comment on “Finding of no Significant Impact for Genetically Engineered Atlantic Salmon (AquAdvantage Salmon)” to have your voice heard.
Top Image: Comparison of Aquabounty GMO salmon to wild salmon of similar age. Credit: The Earth Diet