Controversy on GE salmon moves further on. (Photo: Food & Water Watch/FIS)
Consumer groups petition FDA to classify transgenic fish as food additive
Thursday, February 09, 2012, 03:50 (GMT + 9)
Three US consumer groups this week submitted a formal petition to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) asking it to classify and evaluate AquaBounty's “AquAdvantage” genetically engineered (GE) salmon and all of its components as a food additive. The legal petition of Food & Water Watch, Consumers Union and the Centre for Food contends that the FDA's current review process that treats GE salmon only as a new animal drug is inadequate to protect public health, and that the FDA must by law review the GE salmon under a more rigorous process for any new substance added to food.
“The data FDA has on GE salmon, which were supplied by AquaBounty, are incomplete, biased and cannot be relied upon to show that the GE salmon is safe to consume”, argued Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. “AquaBounty's own study showed that GE salmon may contain increased levels of IGF-1, a hormone that helps accelerate the growth of the transgenic fish and is linked to breast, colon, prostate and lung cancer.”
The groups warned that the potential health risks of GE salmon are like those posed by various food additives banned by the FDA in the past, including those that are cancer-causing.
“FDA's choice to allow the first proposed transgenic animal for food to somehow only be review as a drug is contrary to law, science and common sense”, accused George Kimbrell, senior attorney for the Centre for Food Safety.
AquaBounty developed the transgenic fish by genetically engineering an Atlantic salmon: it added a Chinook salmon growth-hormone gene and a gene sequence from an ocean pout, which the company claims causes the GE salmon to grow faster and reach market size in half the normal time.
AquaBounty submitted an application to FDA for approval of the transgenic salmon under the new animal drug provisions of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.
The company has defended itself by claiming that the FDA has run a “rigorous” 15-year review and determined that the firm's genetically modified (GM) fish are “exactly the same as any other Atlantic salmon and, therefore, are safe for consumption.”
But members of the FDA's own advisory committee have called the agency's review under this process as lacking in rigor, the consumer groups noted.
The petition asserts that the process used to create the GE salmon substantially alters its composition and nutritional value and demand that the fish and its components be considered a food additive pursuant to FDA's guidelines, which means the GE salmon would be considered unsafe for consumption unless AquaBounty's data overwhelmingly proved otherwise.
A proper review process, the groups assert, would require GE salmon to undergo comprehensive toxicological studies to ensure that foods entering the market are safe to consume and are properly labelled.
If it passes, AquAdvantage salmon would be the first GE animal approved for human consumption in the US.
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By Natalia Real