Engineered salmon banned from import

Two months after it declared a genetically engineered salmon safe to eat, the Food and Drug Administration has banned its import.

On Friday, the FDA announced that as a result of a provision inserted into the federal budget bill passed by Congress, imports of genetically engineered salmon or engineered salmon products are banned until the FDA determines how to label them in the marketplace.

“This is a huge step in our fight against ‘Frankenfish,’” wrote Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, in a Friday email. Murkowski, who has fiercely promoted a labeling requirement for engineered salmon, inserted the language into the spending bill.

“I adamantly oppose the FDA’s misguided decision to allow GE salmon to be placed in our kitchens and on our tables, and I firmly believe that mandatory labeling guidelines must be put in place as soon as possible so consumers know what it is they are purchasing,” she wrote. “It seems that the FDA has begun to listen, and I hope this is a sign that the agency plans to develop these necessary guidelines.”

It is not clear how long it will take the FDA to develop labeling guidelines.

The importation ban is particularly important because of the economic case that AquaBounty, manufacturer of the AquAdvantage salmon, has laid out. AquaBounty’s operations plan calls for the engineered salmon to be raised in Canada and Panama, then imported to the United States.

AquaBounty CEO Ronald Stotish, in a statement Friday, downplayed the importance of the FDA ban, saying it “has no impact on AquaBounty’s operations as we are not currently importing our salmon into the United States.”

Salmon marketing experts at November’s Pacific Marine Expo in Seattle said they expected it would take at least one year — and likely more — before engineered salmon reached store shelves.

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