FDA Approves Genetically Modified Salmon

The fish, the first approved GMO animal, will soon be available for commercial sale, but it won’t be labeled.

November 20, 2015

In case you missed it, the Food and Drug Administration announced that the first-ever GMO animal had been approved for commercial sale. It is a variety of Atlantic salmon. 

The genetic modification allows the fish to grow twice as fast as unmodified salmon, so farmers can ostensibly grow them faster and sell them quicker. The FDA’s reasoning? Under recent provisions, the rDNA strand introduced into the salmon gene pool is legally considered a drug. 


Related: The 10 Healthiest Fish On The Planet

The announcement sent news wires into overdrive as everyone quickly tried to determine what all this means for diners and home cooks, not to mention salmon populations:

According to the New York Times, officials at the FDA determined that the fish won’t have to be labeled any differently, and the Center for Food Safety said they have plans to file a lawsuit to rescind the approval.

Fox News largely skirted the controversy, instead noting that the FDA declared that the new fish “was as nutritious as the farm-raised ones and was safe for consumption.” 

NPR raised the concern over what would happen if the fish escaped into the wild, pointing out that “we can’t assume genetically modified fish would perish quickly in nature, just because they didn’t evolve there.” 

The story even made news across the ocean, where the British Independent picked it up and noted the potential effects the decision could have elsewhere: “The U.S. currently imports more than 95 percent of the Atlantic salmon it consumes. If the GM salmon takes off in America, there will be pressure to introduce it to other regions of the world, including Europe, despite public disquiet over GM food.”


Related: Where To Buy Sustainable Salmon 

The Washington Post included some detail about both the company behind this push, as well as where the new genes come from, writing that “Massachusetts-based AquaBounty [has produced] an Atlantic salmon that contains a growth hormone from a Chinook salmon and has been given a gene from the ocean pout, an eel-like fish.” The paper also notes that many chains, including Whole Foods Markets, Trader Joe’s, and Target have already committed to not selling it.