Federal court rules against FDA’s approval of genetically engineered salmon

"Today’s victory will stop FDA from green-lighting such dangerous technologies without fully considering their environmental risks.”

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A federal court halted the Federal Food and Drug Administration from green-lighting genetically engineered salmon. A judge from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California ordered the FDA to consequences of genetically engineered salmon if escaped into the wild.

The judge ruled that “the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) violated core environmental laws in approving the genetically engineered salmon,” a press release from Food & Water Watch stated.

“Genetically engineered animals not only threaten to further industrialize our corporate food system, but also threaten ocean ecosystems,” Tarah Heinzen, senior staff attorney at Food & Water Watch, said. “Today’s victory will stop FDA from green-lighting such dangerous technologies without fully considering their environmental risks.”

The lawsuit was filed in 2016 by the Center for Food and Safety (CFS) and Earthjustice, who represented a broad coalition of organizations, against AquaBounty Technologies, Inc.’s first ever genetically engineered salmon, which consisted of DNA from Atlantic salmon, Pacific king salmon, and Arctic ocean eelpout, CFS said.

According to the ruling, the FDA ignored the serious environmental consequences of approving genetically engineered salmon in the U.S. and around the world, which violated the National Environmental Policy Act. The ruling also said that the FDA was in violation of the Endangered Species Act because their decision that “genetically engineered salmon could have no possible effect on highly-endangered, wild Atlantic salmon was wrong.”

“This decision underscores what scientists have been telling FDA for years—that creating genetically engineered salmon poses an unacceptable risk if the fish escape and interact with our wild salmon and that FDA must understand that risk to prevent harm,” Steve Mashuda, managing attorney at Earthjustice, said. “Our efforts should be focused on saving the wild salmon populations we already have—not manufacturing new species that pose yet another threat to their survival.”

According to a press release from The Center for Food Safety, “when GE salmon escape or are accidentally released into the environment, the new species could threaten wild populations by mating with endangered salmon species, outcompeting them for scarce resources and habitat, and/or introducing new diseases.”

While the FDA said “it lacked authority to consider the adverse environmental impacts of GE animals,” the court ruled such would lead to “absurd possibilities.”

“Today’s decision is a vital victory for endangered salmon and our oceans,” George Kimbrell, CFS legal director and counsel in the case, said. “Genetically engineered animals create novel risks and regulators must rigorously analyze them using sound science, not stick their head in the sand as officials did here. In reality, this engineered fish offers nothing but unstudied risks. The absolute last thing our planet needs right now is another human-created crisis like escaped genetically engineered fish running amok.”

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