What is in this article?:
- Genetically-engineered salmon caught in tangled regulatory net
- Sovereignty and inspections
- Fragmented process
- Salmon are potentially America's first GE animal approved for human consumption; raising a host of worries among critics including the impact on the environment should they escape fish farms.
- Years ago, AquaBounty submitted an application for its GE salmon to the FDA. In late 2010, preliminary analysis by the FDA said the fish were safe for consumption. That was hardly the last word as the approval process has since moved through a handful of other federal agencies.
Sovereignty and inspections
Begich was curious about AquaBounty’s fish farm in Panama. “Who owns it? What’s the control mechanism?”
AquaBounty has leased the facility from the owner of the land, “who is also the largest trout farmer in Panama,” said Stotish. “The reason we went to that facility is there was great interest in Panama as an economic development tool to grow (GE salmon)…
“We are in control of that facility. … We’re periodically inspected by authorities in Panama, Canada and the United States.”
As Panama is a foreign nation, Begich asked if the FDA has legal authority to inspect the AquaBounty facility there.
Stotish: “You’re getting into the weeds of a very thorny geopolitical issue.”
The question is important, said Begich, following hearings on airline inspections done in foreign countries. “We’ve had to pass legislation because -- even though they all tell us they’re all inspected and great – they’ve moved all their maintenance facilities to foreign countries with less rigorous (inspections) because FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) guys can’t get over there and inspect on the same level as they can here.”
As background, Stotish said the Carter administration had come up with the concept of Global Commons where “any federal agency has the responsibility for the environmental consequences of any action anywhere in the world. That bumps up against the issue of sovereignty of foreign nations and their right to regulate products within their own geography.”
As for the Panamanian GE salmon farm “there has been a remarkable degree of international cooperation between regulatory agencies that have worked together, shared information and shared inspections. In fact, the FDA is training regulators and inspectors from Panama as they implement new regulations in this area.
“So, we’re not just regulated by the Center for Veterinary medicine, we’re regulated by (various Canadian agencies) and by Panamanian aquaculture authorities. There is more than enough inspection and oversight of our facility and we have frequent inspections.”
Snowe: “Why is it important to have GE salmon as opposed to pursuing traditional salmon aquaculture?
Land-based facilities are the “way of the future,” replied Stotish. “But one of the barriers to successful land-based cultivation of Atlantic salmon is the slow growth rate in the early part of the life cycle, the first one to three years of life. That’s specifically the part of the life cycle that’s accelerated in our rapid growth phenotype.”
The GE fish would also create opportunity for economic development in “Midwestern states, the Dakotas, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Minnesota,” said Stotish. “These land-based facilities could produce salmon closer to consumption centers without long transportation lines.
“We haven’t talked about transportation costs – both direct and environmental. It’s very expensive to fly salmon from south Chile or Oslo to New York in 747s.
“The ability to grow (GE salmon) would recreate an industry largely lost in the United States. We produce less than 17,000 tons of Atlantic salmon in the United States each year. The opportunity to create that industry and reduce imports and produce food locally is … what we think this product will bring to the marketplace.”
Stotish also said representatives of the Chinese government have claimed more than 70 applications are currently pending for transgenic animals and fish. Argentina and Brazil along with other countries have also “embraced the technology and are employing it.”