Following two hearings, the Food and Drug Administration could not reach a conclusion on whether to permit the sale of genetically altered salmon.
On Sept. 20, an 11-member advisory panel told AquaBounty, the developer of the altered seafood, that there is not yet sufficient data to determine whether genetic modification is safe for the fish or consumers.
The process starts by adding a growth hormone to the salmon eggs which causes them to reach full size in nearly half the time it takes regular salmon to naturally reach the same size.
FDA documents released prior to the hearings described the fish as being safe and comparable to Atlantic salmon. One FDA scientist even testified on behalf of the seafood at the hearing.
“In conclusion, all of the data and information we reviewed…really drive us to the conclusion that AquaAdvantage salmon is Atlantic salmon, and food from AquaAdvantage salmon is as safe as food from other Atlantic salmon,” Kathleen Jones of the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine told ABCNews.com.
The California-based company was met with a great deal of criticism at the hearings from consumer and scientific organizations who believe the food will have negative effects on consumers. Critics urged the FDA not to approve the fish, saying the organization is basing its initial review on shoddy science.
“The FDA is relying on company data from only a handful of fish,” Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food and Water Watch told ABC News. “Such flimsy science isn’t good enough to assure the public that this product is safe to eat.”
Other critics believe the large-scale production of genetically altered fish could lead to them escaping and breeding, with an irreversible effect on the species’ natural gene pool. Though the company claimed that the fish will be sterilized, protestors say the method isn’t foolproof as many salmon can escape the process and remain fertile.
According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, AquaBounty said it expects a final decision by the FDA before the end of the year. Many believe a likely compromise would be to allow the fish on the market but require labeling.
Pierre Williams, a seafood clerk at Safeway Foods in Baltimore said he believes the fish would be popular in the market, if it’s ever approved.
“I think it would be popular because a lot of people enjoy salmon, but I really think they need to look into its safety,” Williams said.