FDA Clears Way for AquAdvantage Genetically Engineered Salmon in US

By John Saulnier, FFB Editorial Director

190314 fda graphic01Maynard, Massachusetts-headquartered AquaBounty Technologies is applauding the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) March 8 decision to lift a 2016 import ban that has prevented it from bringing genetically engineered salmon eggs into the United States from Prince Edward Island to lay the groundwork for farming and selling AquAdvantage brand salmon in North America’s largest market.

The company’s shares on the Nasdaq stock exchange in New York more than doubled to $4.89 on the day of the announcement. While still trading below the 52-week high of $5.45, it was well above the lowly $1.51 depth plumbed at one point during the past year. When the market closed on March 12 the price was quoted at $3.48.

“As FDA notes in this announcement, our salmon was approved by the agency over three years ago based upon a very comprehensive science-based review process which established that it was safe, nutritious, environmentally sound and met all other regulatory requirements,” said AquaBounty CEO Sylvia Wulf. “We will immediately start the process to import AquAdvantage eggs from our hatchery in Canada to begin grow-out at our Indiana facility.”

190314 fda graphic03The land-based indoor recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) near Albany has production capacity of 1,200 tons per year and was designed to allow for significant expansion. The site is situated within a few hours’ drive time of major metropolitan markets in Indianapolis, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Columbus, Louisville and St. Louis.

In the early 1990s the biotechnology company, a majority-owned subsidiary of Intrexon Corporation, developed a growth regulator bypass technique to shorten the typical salmon production cycle of 28-36 months to 16-18 months to grow its proprietary breed of fish to harvest size approximately 50% faster than traditionally reared Atlantic salmon. The process involves the insertion of genes from chinook salmon and eel-like ocean pout. Thousands of pounds of such farm-raised fish have already been sold unlabeled to sushi markets in Canada.

190314 fda graphic02Noting that approximately 350,000 tons of Atlantic salmon are consumed annually in the United States, of which more than 95% is imported, Wulf said: “FDA’s actions will allow for production and sale to begin here in the US, bringing opportunity for investment in rural America, creating American jobs, while also reducing dependence on seafood imports.”

In a statement issued to investors, the company declared: “The United States has been a world leader in biotechnology and food innovation, and the FDA’s decision helps to advance our leadership in this critical space.  This decision is an important achievement not just for AquaBounty, but also for biotechnology and agricultural innovation in general.  As both FDA and USDA have recognized, animal and plant biotechnology enable the development of innovative and transformational products that have the potential to increase sustainable production of food, enhance human nutrition, and help feed a rapidly growing global population.”

Labeling Issue
190314 fda graphic04Labeling remains a significant and controversial issue among a number of environmental, consumer and fishing groups. In 2015 Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski filed an appropriations bill rider that blocked the FDA from approving GE salmon products for sale in the United States until after publication of labeling guidelines by the government spelling out that the fish has been engineered with DNA from another species.

"The new guidelines don't require adequate mandatory labeling, don't require calling the fish ‘genetically engineered,’ and don't help consumers know what kind of fish they are buying," complained George Kimbrell, legal director at the Washington, DC-based Center for Food Safety (CFS). "These guidelines don't require mandatory labeling of GE salmon, and instead allow producers to use QR codes or 1-800 numbers for more information. That clearly is not what the Murkowski amendment requires." 

Kimbrell added that that the CFS is considering possible legal actions to force the FDA to comply with the Murkowski amendment and to challenge whether the FDA “even has the legal authority to approve this genetically engineered fish as a new animal drug.”

Harvest in 18 Months
190314 fda graphic05The first harvest of AquAdvantage Salmon is scheduled for September of 2020. It is expected that restaurants and other foodservice outlets will be targeted initially, with retail store penetration in view further down the road as production ramps up.

The carbon footprint reduction advantage of regional short-haul distribution runs from the grow-out facility in Indiana to regional markets relative to long-haul transport of imported farmed salmon from Norway and Chile will no doubt be emphasized by AquaBounty. At the same time, one can expect a number of NGOs to promote boycotts of AquAdvantage Salmon at supermarkets and grocery stores.

"More than 80 retailers have already said they won't sell this risky, unlabeled GMO fish, and polls show consumers don't want it," according to Dana Perls, senior food policy campaigner with Friends of the Earth.

Meanwhile, the wild-caught salmon production sector in Alaska does not seem overly concerned about the impact of competition that AquaBounty may pose.

“We see that as just another farmed seafood product, and we’ve been competing against farmed salmon in the marketplace for several decades now,” said Jeremy Woodrow, executive director of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. “Wild, natural, sustainable – those are attributes that really only apply to Alaska salmon, wild-harvested salmon, and that sets us apart in the marketplace.”

 
Mowi Reports Solid Q2 on Double-Digit Salmon Volume Gain Mowi Reports Solid Q2 on Double-Digit Salmon Volume Gain
Mowi, the largest producer of farm-raised salmon in the world, on August 21 posted an operational EBIT of EUR 211 million for the second quarter of 2019, compared to EUR 175 million in the

Maple Leaf Seeks CFO to Replace Departing Debbie Simpson Maple Leaf Seeks CFO to Replace Departing Debbie Simpson
Maple Leaf Foods CFO Debbie Simpson will leave the company on November 1, following a transition period that will lead to the appointment of a new executive to replace her. Simpson joined the

Listeria Outbreak in Canada Prompts Frozen Chicken Recall Listeria Outbreak in Canada Prompts Frozen Chicken Recall
The Public Health Agency of Canada announced on August 18 that the Waterloo, Ontario-based Rosemount Sales & Marketing brokerage company is recalling Rosemount brand cooked diced chicken meat...

ASMI Appoints Marketing and Communications Directors ASMI Appoints Marketing and Communications Directors
The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) has named two new directors. Megan Rider is now the domestic marketing director, and Ashley Heimbigner is the communications director. Rider joined ASMI...

Fish Yeah! Long John Silver's Can Party Like it’s 1969 Fish Yeah! Long John Silver's Can Party Like it’s 1969
Louisville, Kentucky-headquartered Long John Silver's, which is ranked as the USA's largest operator of quick service seafood restaurants, continues to mark a golden anniversary this year with...

Beyond Meat Plants Plant-based Burger Stake in Spain Beyond Meat Plants Plant-based Burger Stake in Spain
The Beyond Burger, continuing to roll out beyond North America and across Europe, is now available through the largest supermarket chain in Spain. Faux meat patties, shipped frozen by El Segundo,...

CPF Sales Up Slightly as Earnings Rise 44% in First Half CPF Sales Up Slightly as Earnings Rise 44% in First Half
Bangkok, Thailand-headquartered Charoen Pokphand Foods (CPF) has posted Bt 259,183 million in sales revenues for the first half of 2019, which is a slight gain over turnover generated during the same...

Recall Underway for Weaver Chicken Breast Patties in USA Recall Underway for Weaver Chicken Breast Patties in USA
Bentonville, Arkansas-headquartered Tyson Foods is voluntarily recalling 39,078 pounds of frozen Weaver brand Chicken Breast Patties with Rib Meat in the United States market after a number of...

Ho Ho Ho! Mediterranean Vegetable Tart is Ready to Go Ho Ho Ho! Mediterranean Vegetable Tart is Ready to Go
While “Christmas in July” promotions are behind us and winter holiday festivities are still well into the future, Central Foods has chosen the hot days of August to launch its new Menuserve

Red Lobster Serves Up End-of-Summer Crabfest Meal Deals Red Lobster Serves Up End-of-Summer Crabfest Meal Deals
While August means that summer is winding down for many vacationers in North America, the Red Lobster restaurant chain is extending holiday celebrations with new menu bargains. Starting August 12,

Sysco Buys New York Broadline Distributor; Posts Results Sysco Buys New York Broadline Distributor; Posts Results
Houston, Texas-headquartered Sysco Corporation, which is ranked as the leading global foodservice distribution company, has acquired J. Kings Food Service Professionals, a broadline distributor with...

Honey & Fig Wins Two Stars in Great Taste Awards Contest Honey & Fig Wins Two Stars in Great Taste Awards Contest
For the eighth year running, New Forest Ice Cream is celebrating success in the most prestigious food and drink competition in the United Kingdom, The Great Taste Awards. The Hampshire, England-based...

Schwan's Rolls with Meatier Pagoda Asian-style Egg Rolls Schwan's Rolls with Meatier Pagoda Asian-style Egg Rolls
Schwan’s Consumer Brands has announced the re-launch of Pagoda Asian-style Egg Rolls, available in 8-count packs weighing 22 ounces. Now featuring meat as the first ingredient, the Marshall,...

ICE Puts Heat on Unlawful Employment at Poultry Plants ICE Puts Heat on Unlawful Employment at Poultry Plants
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) executed multiple federal criminal search warrants at seven food processing plants across Mississippi on the...

Tyson to Rebuild Beef Plant in Kansas Following Fire Tyson to Rebuild Beef Plant in Kansas Following Fire
Tyson Foods has announced plans to repair its high-volume beef processing plant in Holcomb, Kansas, after a blaze destroyed part of the facility on August 9. As officials are still assessing damage...

High Liner Foods’ Q2 Sales Fall as Adjusted EBITDA Rises High Liner Foods’ Q2 Sales Fall as Adjusted EBITDA Rises
Sales for Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada-headquartered High Liner Foods declined by US $22.3 million to $223 during the second quarter of 2019 that ended on June 29. Gross profit decreased by ...

Oprah Adds Frozen Skillet Meals to O, That’s Good! Line Oprah Adds Frozen Skillet Meals to O, That’s Good! Line
American media mogul, entrepreneur and philanthropist Oprah Winfrey, in collaboration with the Kraft Heinz Company, has announced that new O, That’s Good! Frozen Skillet meals are being added to the...

American Seafoods and Fortune Wild About Alaska Pollock American Seafoods and Fortune Wild About Alaska Pollock
One could say that added good fortune is smiling upon frozen seafood consumers in North America now that Fortune Fish & Gourmet and American Seafoods have joined forces to launch three frozen

Cavendish Farms to Build Potato Research Center in PEI Cavendish Farms to Build Potato Research Center in PEI
Cavendish Farms has announced plans for construction a potato research and plant-breeding center in New Annan, Prince Edward Island (PEI), Canada. The $6 million facility, which is fully funded by...

Scheufler to Succeed Martin at Lamb Weston Supply Helm Scheufler to Succeed Martin at Lamb Weston Supply Helm
Lamb Weston Holdings has announced that Rick Martin, senior vice president and chief supply chain officer of the Eagle, Idaho, USA-headquartered producer and supplier of frozen potato, vegetable and...

AFFI Replies to Frozen Fruits and Vegetables Safety Story AFFI Replies to Frozen Fruits and Vegetables Safety Story
The Arlington, Virginia-based American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI) issued a statement to “to set the record straight when it comes to the safety of frozen foods” two days after the Washington ...

Sara Lee Frozen Bakery to Acquire Superior Cake Products Sara Lee Frozen Bakery to Acquire Superior Cake Products
Hostess Brands has entered into a definitive agreement to sell its Superior Cake Products in-store bakery business to Sara Lee Frozen Bakery for $65 million in cash, subject to post-closing

NFRA Salutes Golden Penguin Winners for Top Performances NFRA Salutes Golden Penguin Winners for Top Performances
The Harrisburg, Pennsylvania-headquartered National Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Association (NFRA) on July 30 trumpeted winners of the prestigious Golden Penguin Awards for best merchandising and...

FRoSTA Sales Up, Volume Down as Uncertainty Looms Ahead FRoSTA Sales Up, Volume Down as Uncertainty Looms Ahead
Bremerhaven, Germany-headquartered FRoSTA AG reported €263 million in first-half sales for 2019, up 3.8% year-over-year in value despite volume slippage and a 3.9% decline in seafood

Major Nordfrost Expansion Underway at Wilhelmshaven Port Major Nordfrost Expansion Underway at Wilhelmshaven Port
Temperature-controlled warehousing and distribution specialist Norfrost is investing €66 million to expand its cold storage logistics terminal at the Wilhelmshaven container port. The facility has