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Brief: AquaBounty’s first commercial harvest of its GE salmon will happen this month

May 13, 2021

  • US genetically engineered (GE) salmon farmer AquaBounty will harvest its first commercial genetically engineered salmon this month from its Indiana facility. The first harvest, which totals five metric tons, has already been sold, according to the startup.
  • AquaBounty Atlantic salmon are raised in freshwater from hatch to harvest in land-based recirculating aquaculture systems where every element of the system is carefully controlled and monitored.
  • By adding a growth hormone-regulating gene from the Pacific Chinook and a promoter gene from an ocean pout, AquaBounty’s resulting fish is capable of growing year-round instead of just the spring and summer.

Why it matters:

AquaBounty received US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approval for its GE salmon in 2015 but was immediately met with consumer backlash over the fact that its salmon would not be marketed with a label identifying it as genetically engineered. In response to the public controversy, the FDA issued an import alert that prevented AquaBounty from bringing its AquAdvantage salmon into the US from Canada and South America where they are reared.

The FDA lifted the import ban in 2019, allowing AquaBounty to finally proceed with its first commercial harvest. The buyers for the initial five tons have not been disclosed. The salmon may require a bioengineered (BE) disclosure label under the recently enacted National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard.

As more startups consider the application of GE techniques to human food, AquaBounty’s experience could pave the way for resolving future labeling issues around GE foods.

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