Thursday, July 23, 2020

AquaBounty’s Genetically Engineered Salmon is Coming

We've been following this one for a while, links below.
From AgFunder News, July 20:

AquaBounty’s GE salmon is coming to menus in the US Midwest – for real this time
Massachusetts-based AquaBounty obtained approval for its genetically engineered (GE) salmon back in 2015. But things came to a screeching halt soon after. 

Alaska senator Lisa Murkowski and a number of other outspoken opponents began a vocal campaign against the commercialization of the salmon, based in large part on the decision of the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) that products featuring the fish wouldn’t require a labeling disclosure.
Phrases like ‘Frankenfish’ appeared in headlines discussing whether AquaBounty should be required to provide such a disclosure. After a wave of media attention surrounding the topic, retailers like Costco, Trader Joe’s, Aldi’s, Whole Foods, Target, and Kroger released statements announcing that they wouldn’t sell AquaBounty’s GE salmon.

In 2016, 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 GE salmon combines a growth hormone-regulating gene from Pacific Chinook Salmon with genes from Atlantic Salmon and Ocean Pout. The main difference with other varieties of farmed salmon is the growth rate: An AquAdvantage fish takes roughly 18 months to reach harvest size, compared to 24 months for its counterparts.

In April 2019, the FDA lifted its import ban, saying that the new National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard divested the agency of its authority to issue labeling guidance – though it said the new law would likely require AquaBounty to provide a label disclosure anyway.
Murkowski has continued her efforts to attach targeted requirements to the production and sale of the GE salmon. For AquaBounty, however, that doesn’t seem to be an issue.

“We absolutely plan to label it,” Sylvia Wulf, CEO of AquaBounty, tells AFN. “We did a lot of research last year, both qualitative and quantitative, to better understand consumer perception. What we found […] is that if you give consumers the facts around whether it is safe, whether it tastes good, and whether it is affordable, then the answer to whether they will eat it is yes.”

When pressed on the safety of producing and consuming AquAdvantage salmon, Wulf points to 25 years of testing on multiple generations of the variety to ensure that there are no unforeseen changes due to genetic modification. Under the US’s Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology, the GE salmon must be the same or substantially similar to its conventional counterpart in order to obtain regulatory approval. This means that the FDA largely looks at the end result of the biotech process used, rather than focusing on the process itself, Wulf says.

AquaBounty recently began the first commercial-scale harvest of its conventional Atlantic Salmon raised at its Indiana farm. At the same time, it’s in the process of growing out the first batch of AquAdvantage salmon on US soil. The fish should be ready for consumption around mid- to late-October throughout the Midwest.

The conventional harvest may not seem significant in light of the company’s focus on GE salmon, but for the last four years, the startup has had a lot of time on its hands to focus on other aspects of the business.

“We bought the farm in 2017, refurbished it, and it was sitting there,” Wulf says. “We didn’t know when the import alert would lift and we’d be allowed to bring eggs into the US. We thought, ‘Okay, it’s ready, we know how to farm. Let’s bring in conventional salmon and start raising them so that when the import alert is lifted, we can bring in the AquAdvantage salmon.'”

Covid-19 hits
This process also involved cultivating relationships with supply chain partners who would not only purchase the conventional salmon but would be on board to purchase the GE salmon once it was approved and ready for harvest.

Then, Covid-19 happened.

“The majority of our salmon is sold through foodservice channels, as is about 55% of all salmon. Foodservice has been the hardest hit by the pandemic,” Wulf says....

Completely unrelated at LiveScience, July 20:
Scientists accidentally create 'impossible' hybrid fish 

Okay, that may have been unfair.
What is fair is to point out: 

July 2
AquaBounty Is Now Selling Their Indiana-Raised Atlantic Salmon (but not the genetically modified fish, yet)
As intro'd in September 2019's "Here Come the Frankenfish: GMO Salmon Coming to a Store Near You"
They absolutely must not allow these things to get anywhere near ocean salmon (or Great Lakes salmon for that matter).
And though the writer takes a blithely upbeat look at this development, we are posting it for information purposes only....
That was followed in January 2020 by FrankenFish: "AquaBounty unveils 50,000 tonne target"....

And in completely unrelated news, from the journal Nature:
Transgenic Aedes aegypti Mosquitoes Transfer Genes into a Natural Population