News Bite: FDA Imposes Import Ban on Genetically Engineered Salmon

The Food and Drug Administration at the end of January imposed an import ban on salmon produced through genetic engineering, effectively making it impossible to sell the same product they had approved for food use just months earlier. FDA’s original approval stipulated that the salmon could only be raised in Canada and Panama.

The ban was congressionally mandated after many consumer groups expressed concern about the lack of a labeling requirement. Additionally, many retailers have decided not to stock the salmon. The ban will be in effect until the FDA can publish guidelines on how it should be labeled.

The genetically engineered salmon is produced with a growth hormone from a Chinook salmon and a gene from the ocean pout. These modifications are claimed to help the salmon grow large enough for consumption in 18 months, rather than the three years it typically takes for Atlantic salmon to make it to the marketplace.

Current FDA policy requires labels only on foods produced through biotechnology if it changes the nutrient content of the food or when a potential safety issue is identified. These differences were not identified in the FDA’s review of the new salmon.

Food labeling is of increasing interest to consumers who wish to know how their food is produced and what it contains. According to the 2014 IFIC Food Technology Survey, which was recently cited on Yahoo! News, 59 percent of Americans are likely to buy genetically engineered fish. Additionally, 63 percent of respondents say they support the current FDA labeling policy.