The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced two public meetings to consider the labeling of food derived from genetically engineered (GE) salmon. During the first meeting slated for September 19-20, 2010, the Veterinary Medicine Advisory Committee will address general scientific issues surrounding GE animals, statutory and regulatory constraints, and “a new animal drug application (NADA) concerning AquAdvantage salmon produced by AquaBounty Technologies, Inc.,” which has inserted Chinook and ocean pout genes into Atlantic salmon to accelerate maturation. I

n addition, FDA has called a September 21, 2010, public hearing to explain “the relevant legal principles for food labeling and to solicit information and views from interested persons on the application of these principles to food derived from AquAdvantage Salmon.” FDA has specifically invited participants to consider the following: (i) “Which facts about the AquAdvantage Salmon seem most pertinent for FDA’s consideration of whether there are any ‘material’ differences between foods from this salmon and foods from other Atlantic salmon[?]”; and (ii) “If FDA determined there are ‘material’ differences, how would that difference be described on a food label in a way that is truthful and nonmisleading[?].” The agency has further noted that information about changes “in the attributes of the food itself, such as its nutritional value, functional properties (e.g., storage), and ‘organoleptic’ qualities (e.g., texture and aroma) could be material.” FDA will accept comments on the hearing until November 22, 2010. More information about the NADA process for AquAdvantage salmon appears in background documents provided by FDA as well as Issue 355 of this Update. See FDA Press Release and Federal Register, August 26, 2010.  

Because it is the first GE animal to undergo FDA review, AquAdvantage salmon has long attracted attention from several media outlets. In particular, The Guardian recently registered the concern of some critics who deem the product “frankenfish.” Among those campaigning against the technology, the International Salmon Farmers Association has expressed reservations that FDA approval “will undermine the popularity of salmon, which commands high prices in the U.S.” See UPI.com, August 23, 2010; The Guardian, August 25, 2010.