Group says FDA deliberately withheld info on GM salmon

April: A lot of GM issues are heating up. The GE Salmon issue is taking on the same “face” as the Canadian Bill C-474, where we are getting these foods rammed down our throats at all costs. We’ll keep you updated here:

Adding a new twist to the controversy over genetically engineered (GE)
salmon, the Center for Food Safety (CFS) revealed in recent hearings on
transgenic fish, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) knowingly
withheld a federal biological opinion by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service (FWS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
prohibiting the use of transgenic salmon in open-water net pens pursuant
to the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA).

“This adds further evidence that in fact GE salmon pose a serious threat
to marine environments and is another compelling reason for the FDA not to
approve the fish for commercial use,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive
director of the Center for Food Safety. “While the FDA applauded the
company’s choice of land-based containment as responsible, it never
revealed that it is illegal in the U.S. to grow genetically engineered
salmon in open-water net pens.”

The biological opinion ( and supplemental information, obtained through a
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, challenge claims by AquaBounty
Technologies, the developer of the genetically engineered salmon, the
transgenic fish pose no threat to marine environments. The genetically
engineered Atlantic salmon under consideration was engineered with growth
hormone genes from an unrelated Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha)
and DNA from the anti-freeze genes of an eelpout (Zoarces americanus).

The opinion issued by FWS and NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service
(NMFS) to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 2003 expresses concerns
transgenic salmon would threaten and adversely affect wild Atlantic
salmon, currently on the Endangered Species List.

Federal agencies are required by Section 7 of the ESA to consult with the expert fisheries agencies when any action may impact a protected species. As part of the consultation, the expert agencies draft a Biological Opinion explaining under what circumstance the proposed activity would not endanger the survival of the protected species.

The opinion analyzed the authorization of net pen salmon aquaculture and
required: “The prohibition on the use of transgenic salmonids at existing marine sites off the coast of Maine” in order to “eliminate the potentially adverse disease and ecological risks posed by the use of transgenic salmonids in aquaculture.”

Despite this knowledge, the group says it appears FDA has not consulted in depth with the expert fisheries agencies regarding the current Aquabounty GE salmon. FDA acknowledges “preliminary” discussions have been held.

Documents released Wednesday by CFS include an e-mail from FWS staff to
NOAA that revealed: “Shortly after the Atlantic salmon was listed as
endangered, several of us from USFWS and NMFS spent [two] days down in
Maryland meeting with AquaBounty and FDA about development of genetically
modified salmon and discussion around the need for FDA to engage in
Section 7 consultation with the Services. We never heard a peep out of FDA
or AquaBounty after that.”

“The recent developments only add to the increasing concerns raised by the public, members of Congress and the FDA’s own advisory committee,” said Jaydee Hanson, senior policy analyst at the Center for Food Safety. “The documents received make clear that some data was even kept from FWS and NMFS scientists who would not sign the confidentiality agreements requested by the FDA. If the FDA won’t even share confidential company data with government scientists, what else is it keeping secret from the public?”

A similar opinion issued by FWS and NMFS to the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency in 2001 also included in the material released by CFS.
The agencies noted: “It is reasonable to assume that genetically modified
salmonids, possessing a greatly accelerated growth potential and occupying
the same habitat as wild fish, would have a greater displacement impact on
wild fish than non-transgenic domestic strains.”  (

Conversations between NOAA and FWS staff in 2009 highlight a Swedish study
that found in simulated escapes, transgenic fish have a “considerably
greater effect on the natural environment than hatchery-reared,
non-transgenic fish when they escape.”

The study further noted genetically modified fish survive better when
there is a shortage of food, benefit more than non-transgenic fish from
increasing water temperatures, and can be more resistant to environmental
toxins that may ultimately end up in consumers.

“Today the public gains much needed insight about the risks of GE fish, we
hope that FDA will take heed,” said Kimbrell. “We strongly oppose the
approval of these genetically engineered salmon and urge FDA to reject
this application.”

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