FDA deems Island 'frankenfish' egg facility safe

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has given preliminary approval for a fast-growing Atlantic Salmon clearing the way for a Prince Edward Island facility to continue producing modified fish eggs.
A sockeye salmon is reeled in by a fisherman along the shores of the Fraser River in British Columbia. The only facility in the world that produces genetically modified Atlantic salmon eggs is located on P.E.I.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says genetically modified salmon eggs from P.E.I. are unlikely to harm the environment, opening the door for a scientifically engineered salmon that grows twice as fast as normal.

The only facility in the world that produces genetically modified Atlantic salmon eggs is located in Fortune, P.E.I. There, a Massachusetts company called AquaBounty Technologies produces genetically modified Atlantic salmon fish eggs.

The AquaAdvantage salmon has an added growth hormone from the Pacific Chinook salmon that allows the fish to produce growth hormones all year long. The engineers were able to keep the hormone active by using another gene from an eel-like fish called an ocean pout that acts like an "on" switch for the hormone. Typical Atlantic salmon produce the growth hormone for only part of the year.

Late last week the Food and Drug Administration released its environmental assessment of the AquaAdvantage salmon, which is a faster-growing fish. It has been the subject of a contentious, yearslong debate at the agency.

Approval worries Green Party

In the 150-page report, the FDA notes egg production on P.E.I. reduces environmental risk in the United States. The report clears the way for the first approval of a scientifically engineered animal for human consumption.

AquaBounty said it plans to ship eggs from the Island to Panama, where fish would be raised to their full size and then processed.

In its report the FDA said the facilities in P.E.I. and Panama are secure.

The leader of the P.E.I. Green Party says he isn't convinced.

"We have to recognize that North America is the only place in the world where genetic engineering is an accepted form of food production.  In the European Union it's banned," said Peter Bevan-Baker.

Officals at AquaBounty could not be reached for comment.

The tentative thumbs-up from the FDA is only for production on P.E.I. and in Panama, so it could still be a long time before the world's first genetically engineered food animal ends up on the dinner table.