GMO salmon approval turns up heat in U.S. labeling battle

Thu Nov 19, 2015 7:02pm EST
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By Tom Polansek

CHICAGO Nov 19 (Reuters) - A battle over whether the U.S. government should require special labels for genetically modified foods is set to heat up after a type of salmon on Thursday became the first biotech animal approved for human consumption.

Activists who argue that the farm-raised salmon poses risks to the environment and public health say its clearance by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will galvanize opponents to press for the fish to be labeled as genetically engineered.

Friends of the Earth and other environmental groups plan to send letters to the FDA and members of Congress calling for a law that requires labels. The groups have already successfully lobbied major companies like and Kroger Co and Safeway Ltd to say they will ban GMO salmon from their stores.

"The labeling battle is a particularly big deal," said Dana Perls, food and technology campaigner for Friends of the Earth. "People have a right to know what they're eating."

Companies that produce food with genetically modified (GMO) ingredients worry that mandated labels could reduce consumer demand and increase costs.

The first supplies of GMO salmon, which will be engineered by AquaBounty Technologies Inc to grow faster than conventional fish, will likely arrive in U.S. supermarkets in two years or more, after being raised in facilities in Canada and Panama, Chief Executive Ronald Stotish told Reuters.

He said the company will follow the FDA's rules, which do not require special labeling because the agency says the salmon is nutritionally equivalent to conventional, farm-raised Atlantic salmon.

If a company opts to label GMO salmon, the agency suggested wording such as, "This salmon patty was made from Atlantic salmon produced using modern biotechnology."   Continued...