The Canadian environmental regulator Environment Canada has approved commercial production of genetically engineered salmon eggs at a laboratory on Prince Edward Island.
Monday’s announcement is a step forward for AquaBounty Technologies, which is seeking commercial approval for a salmon engineered to grow more quickly than natural fish. “It’s a milestone for us,” said company spokesman Dave Conley.
AquaBounty’s plans call for eggs to be produced in Canada and taken to Panama to be raised. The fish will be bound for American plates if the Food and Drug Administration approves.
FDA spokeswoman Theresa Eisenman said the Canadian announcement has limited implications for the FDA, which is studying whether to approve the engineered AquAdvantage salmon for commercial sale. “The Canadian decision is independent from the United States,” she said. “They’re completely different sets … the Canadians are addressing the facility itself, and the decision before the FDA is about the safety and effectiveness of the salmon.”
The FDA has not released any timeline for approval of AquaBounty’s salmon, an Atlantic salmon that includes genes from the ocean pout and Chinook salmon. The federal agency closed it comment period for approval in April and has released no information since.
Eisenman said the FDA does not discuss ongoing approval processes, and Conley said his company has likewise heard nothing.
He said the Environment Canada decision should not be overstated. “This really is just part of the business plan to be able to commercialize it in the future,” he said.
The decision, posted to Environment Canada’s website, states that it “does not constitute an endorsement from Environment Canada or the Government of Canada of the living organism to which it relates.”
It also calls for strict “physical and chemical barriers” to prevent engineered eggs from entering the environment. These include four levels of containment to keep eggs from leaving the incubators, perimeter fencing and security monitoring.
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