pe-mi-gmo-salmon

These salmon are the same age, but one is genetically engineered to grow twice as fast. (Aqua Bounty)

The former minister of economics for the country of Georgia is the largest shareholder of a U.S. company with operations in P.E.I. that is waiting for U.S. approval on its genetically modified salmon.

Massachusetts-based Aqua Bounty Technologies, which operates an egg-hatching facility in Bay Fortune, P.E.I., is waiting for U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval on its fast-growing, genetically modified salmon.

In order to maintain its nearly 16-year quest to put its GMO salmon on U.S. dinner plates, Aqua Bounty raised $2 million in March. Half that money came from the Georgian biologist and businessman Kakha Bendukidze.

The former economics minister and university founder has an interest in farmed fish. Aqua Bounty isn't the only aquaculture he's invested in.

But since 2010, he has provided $8 million to the company in exchange for almost 48 per cent of Aqua Bounty's shares. That's the year the FDA released its initial report saying Aqua Bounty's salmon was safe to eat and unlikely to pose a significant risk to the environment.

The latest money is expected to keep Aqua Bounty going until the end of 2012, according to regulatory filings.

But Aqua Bounty is belt-tightening as well. Fifteen of 27 staff have been laid off.

No word yet on how that affects P.E.I. workers.

Bendukidze told the New York Times he thinks it's unlikely the U.S. government will approve the controversial product in an election year.

But, in a rare comment on the application, the commissioner for the FDA told the newspaper a revised environmental assessment will be issued "very soon."