Atlantic salmon

Although it has been 15 years since AquaBounty Technologies began the approval application process for its genetically engineered AquAdvantage salmon, the controversial fish appears to now be inching closer to a firm approval as the Senate just voted against a measure that would require more testing on the human health and environmental safety of the fish before approved.

The AquaBounty AquAdvantage salmon is an Atlantic salmon that has growth hormone genes from a Chinook salmon in its DNA, which enables the fish to grow to maturity in half the time it takes a normal Atlantic salmon. The FDA granted a preliminary approval in 2010 but a final  decision has not been rendered.

Among the growing list of concerns over AquaBounty’s AquAdvantage salmon is the issue of sterilizing the fish to avoid any possible breeding with wild salmon in the case of escape, which is common with the type of cages proposed. The fish embryos would be sterilized in Canada before arriving in Panama where they’d be raised. The males would then have their sex “reversed” through estrogen exposure, to prevent any breeding.  But the procedures reportedly only work 95 percent of the time, leaving a significant enough gap for concern.

The measure was introduced by Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski (R) and cosponsored by Democratic Alaskan Sen. Mark Begich, Washington Democrat Maria Cantwell, and Oregon Democrat Jeff Merkley—all hailing from the Northwest, where the salmon industry continues to face ongoing challenges beyond the threat of genetically engineered salmon gobbling up market share. Murkowski’s measure was aiming to require the FDA to await approval of the genetically engineered salmon until the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration conducted tests of its own to determine safety.

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

Image: USFWS Pacific