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[genet-news] RISK ASSESSMENT & APPROVAL: Major U.S. environmental groups call for full environmental review of genetically engineered salmon



                                  PART 1


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TITLE:   MAJOR U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS CALL FOR FULL ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW OF GENETICALLY ENGINEERED SALMON

SOURCE:  Friends of the Earth USA, USA

AUTHOR:  Press Release

URL:     http://www.foe.org/major-us-environmental-groups-call-full-environmental-review-genetically-engineered-salmon

DATE:    08.11.2010

SUMMARY: "Today 12 executive officers of some of the nation?s largest environmental organizations requested that the Food and Drug Administration conduct a thorough Environmental Impact Statement before deciding whether to approve the first ever genetically engineered animal for food. [...] As the groups? letter states, a full Environmental Impact Statement is necessary to review the potential harm that commercialization of this genetically engineered fish could inflict on the environment, biodiversity, and human health."

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MAJOR U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS CALL FOR FULL ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW OF GENETICALLY ENGINEERED SALMON

FDA considering approval of first genetically engineered animal for human consumption despite inadequate environmental review

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Today 12 executive officers of some of the nation?s largest environmental organizations requested that the Food and Drug Administration conduct a thorough Environmental Impact Statement before deciding whether to approve the first ever genetically engineered animal for food.

This new animal, AquaBounty Technologies? AquAdvantage® salmon, containing genetic material from Chinook salmon, Ocean pout, and Atlantic salmon, is engineered to grow nearly twice as fast as wild salmon, according to company claims.

As the groups? letter states, a full Environmental Impact Statement is necessary to review the potential harm that commercialization of this genetically engineered fish could inflict on the environment, biodiversity, and human health.

The FDA has announced its intention to conduct its own cursory environmental assessment of AquaBounty?s genetically engineered salmon, although by law it is not required to do so before approval of the application.

?A full Environmental Impact Statement would provide the FDA with the time needed to fully evaluate these threats instead of rushing through the approval process with a less thorough assessment,? said Eric Hoffman, Biotechnology Policy Campaigner with Friends of the Earth.

The groups also asked that the FDA consult with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and the Fish and Wildlife Service before deciding to approve genetically engineered salmon.

?Wild Atlantic salmon have been listed as an Endangered Species since 2000, partly due to genetic and fitness impairments caused by inbreeding with farmed salmon escaping from pens,? said Patti Goldman, Vice President for Litigation with Earthjustice. ?It would be irresponsible for the FDA to approve this genetically engineered salmon without looking at the threat approval poses to these endangered populations.?

?The threats to wild salmon populations and natural ocean ecosystems are real and must be thoroughly reviewed,? said Dr. George Leonard, Director of Ocean Conservancy?s Aquaculture Program. ?That is why the environmental community is united with consumer advocates, food safety experts, and countless concerned citizens in its call for the FDA to produce a full Environmental Impact Statement before any decision about approval is made.?

The letter sent by environmental groups to the FDA today is available here: http://www.foe.org/sites/default/files/EnvironmentalGroupLettertoFDA-GESalmonEnvironmentalReview.pdf



                                  PART 2

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TITLE:   SUPERSALMON: ARE THEY SAFE TO EAT?

SOURCE:  Food Safety News, USA

AUTHOR:  Ross Anderson

URL:     http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2010/11/are-supersalmon-safe-to-eat/

DATE:    09.11.2010

SUMMARY: "Leaders of 12 environmental groups ganged up on "supersalmon" Monday, demanding that the Food and Drug Administration conduct a thorough environmental study before deciding whether to approve genetically engineered salmon for the U.S. market. "How FDA approaches this first request for approval of a GE animal for mass production and human consumption will set a precedent for future GE animal applications," the environmentalists warned in the letter."

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SUPERSALMON: ARE THEY SAFE TO EAT?

Leaders of 12 environmental groups ganged up on "supersalmon" Monday, demanding that the Food and Drug Administration conduct a thorough environmental study before deciding whether to approve genetically engineered (GE) salmon for the U.S. market.

"How FDA approaches this first request for approval of a GE animal for mass production and human consumption will set a precedent for future GE animal applications," the environmentalists warned in the letter.

The letter was signed by executives of the Ocean Conservancy, Sierra Club, Greenpeace, Union of Concerned Scientists and 8 other major environmental groups.

They reacted to efforts by AquaBounty, a Massachusetts biotechnology firm, to get FDA approval for a farmed Atlantic salmon that grows twice as fast as naturally produced fish, thus lowering production costs.  The company does this by modifying a single gene that controls the salmon's hormones and rate of growth.

An FDA panel conducted hearings on the proposed "supersalmon" in September with no immediate recommendation, but the agency was reported to be leaning toward approval.

Genetically modified foods such as soy, wheat and corn have been part of the world's food supply for many years, but AquaBounty's salmon would become the first animal protein approved for human consumption.

The environmental groups focused their arguments on environmental concerns - the risk that modified salmon will escape into the environment, with unknown consequences for wild salmon and other sealife.

AquaBounty says it will eliminate that risk by producing fish that are both female and biologically sterile, incapable of reproducing.  In addition, they will raise their fish in enclosed, land-locked hatcheries where fish can't escape into the environment.

Whatever the environmental risks, others ask: Are supersalmon safe to eat?

In their letter, the environmentalists did not address the question, other than with a generic statement that GE fish could harm human health.

George Leonard, aquaculture director for the Ocean Conservancy, said in an interview that a thorough environmental impact study, as requested, would address the issue of human consumption.  But, at present, there is not enough information to reach a conclusion, he said.

Could modifying a single gene make the difference?  "It depends which one you're changing," he said.

"Our concern is that, if the FDA approves this proposal, we will be making a major decision to move down the road toward broader use of modified foods," he said.  "And we will be doing that without really asking ourselves: Is that what we really want to do?"

Aqua Bounty, however, insists that the fish they plan to produce will have all of the healthful qualities of a normal fish.  It will merely be cheaper to produce.

"We should not condemn or be fearful of technology," AquaBounty founder Elliot Ennis argued recently.  "We need to use it to our advantage, test the individual products as the FDA is doing, but do not prejudge the results."

Environmentalists who attack genetic engineering "seek to eliminate the process itself," he said, "without trying to determine how it can be positively used." 




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