WSPA Opposes the Approval of Genetically Engineered Salmon

Nov 5, 2010

November 2010

The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) has joined a number of animal protection organizations to oppose the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) potential approval of genetically engineered (GE) salmon, also named AquAdvantage salmon, for human consumption. Read the joint letter submitted to the FDA.

Aqua Bounty Technologies has engineered Atlantic salmon to grow twice as fast as other salmon by incorporating DNA from ocean pout and chinook salmon into their genetic makeup.The production of AquAdvantage salmon raises serious concerns about animal welfare, environmental health and food safety. If approved, the salmon would be the first GE animal available for human consumption and wide-scale farming. Aqua Bounty is required to demonstrate the safety of its genetic modifications to the animals involved, the environment, and human health before the FDA will grant approval for commercial production, but so far the company has collected limited data, excluded deformed or unhealthy fish from samples, and used extremely small sample sizes in their studies (only 6-12 fish).

Specifically, AquAdvantage salmon pose the following problems:

Animal health and welfare has not been adequately considered: Fish are sentient animals – meaning that they are  capable of experiencing pain, fear and distress. AquAdvantage salmon would be cultivated in aquaculture facilities, which are essentially intensive factory farming operations. Furthermore, genetic engineering is an experimental technology that often produces unintended and unpredictable effects, which can result in tremendous animal suffering and loss of life. The indications that AquAdvantage salmon are frequently deformed and have low survival rates are welfare issues that should not be ignored.

Sets a dangerous precedent: AquAdvantage salmon are not the only GE animals nearing the FDA approval process. Other companies have filed applications with the FDA for approval of GE pigs and cows. Given the highly limited data and poorly designed studies produced by Aqua Bounty, approval of AquAdvantage salmon would set a dangerous precedent for future GE animal approval requests.

Poses risks to environmental and food safety: Little time has been dedicated to assessing long-term environmental and human health risks associated with genetically modified organisms –- AquAdvantage salmon, in particular. Furthermore, the FDA is unlikely to require the GE salmon to be labeled as such, meaning that consumers will have no way of knowing whether the salmon they buy is GE or not.

We need your help to prevent AquAdvantage salmon from being approved. The FDA is accepting public comments until Nov. 22 regarding AquAdvantage salmon for human consumption and on labeling of these GE fish. To submit comments, visit the Federal eRulemaking Portal, click on “Submit a Comment,” and then search for docket # FDA-2010-N-0385. Select “Individual Consumer” for the Submitter Category, unless another category better represents you.

In your comments, please politely ask the FDA to not approve the production and sale of AquAdvantage salmon for human consumption, due to both documented and unknown risks to animal welfare, the environment and human health. Also let them know that not providing proper labeling of these GE fish is unacceptable. Remember that all comments must include the agency name and the docket number listed above. Also, please be aware that all comments received by the FDA may be posted without change including any personal information provided.

Please see WSPA’s sample letter for ideas when submitting comments to the FDA.

More information on WSPA’s farm animal welfare campaigns >>

For more information on welfare issues affecting the world's fish farming industry, read WSPA’s Closed Waters: CIWF/WSPA Fish Farming Report >>

Photo © Jarle H. Moe;

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