Welcome to AquaBounty's Online Press Room.
The following is a compilation of news about AquaBounty products, myths and facts, sources and other useful background material.
Click here to download information about AquaBounty's AquAdvantage® Salmon and about the company.
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B-Roll about AquaBounty Technologies
To download this video in high-quality .mp4 format, please contact Dave Conley
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Salmon DNA Animation Video
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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering approval of AquAdvantage® Atlantic salmon eggs. These eggs include a gene from the Chinook salmon that provides the fish with the potential to grow to market size in half the time of conventional salmon. This fish would be the first food from a transgenic animal application approved by the FDA.
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FDA has worked for over a decade to develop a robust system to determine the safety of food and drugs from genetically engineered (GE) animals. FDA guidance was released in January 2009 after international standards were released in June of the previous year by a body overseen by both the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO). This body is commonly known as the Codex Alimentarius Commission.
The FDA must provide premarket approval and examine the environmental impact of any genetically engineered food animal before it can be made available commercially. Extensive study is required before approval.
The FDA will only approve food from GE animals that are safe to eat. The agency's food safety evaluation looks at the same information recommended by the Codex Alimentarius.
GE animals are regulated under the new animal drug provisions of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA). The elements of this approval process include:
- Product definition;
- Molecular characterization of both the rDNA aspect of the animal and its lineage;
- Comprehensive data on the characteristics of the animal and its health;
- Safety for human consumption;
- Demonstration of effectiveness (label claim); and
- Environmental impact.
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How are AquAdvantage® Salmon different from other Atlantic salmon?
AquAdvantage® Salmon include a gene from the Chinook salmon, which provides the fish with the potential to grow to market size in half the time of conventional salmon. In all other respects, AquAdvantage® Salmon are identical to other Atlantic salmon.
Size comparison of an AquAdvantage® Salmon (background) vs. a non-transgenic Atlantic salmon sibling (foreground) of the same age. For a high-res version of this photo, please contact Dave Conley.
Are the salmon grown from AquAdvantage® eggs also genetically modified?
Although salmon grown from AquAdvantage® eggs are the same biologically and nutritionally as any other Atlantic salmon, their accelerated growth comes from the addition of a growth hormone gene from the Chinook salmon. The Chinook growth hormone is the same as the Atlantic salmon growth hormone; it is simply regulated differently. Their ability to grow faster does not change the biological make-up of the fish. It is important to note that AquAdvantage® Salmon expresses a salmon protein in a salmon.
How well has this been researched?
The development of AquAdvantage® Salmon is based on more than two decades of scientific research, making it the most studied line of Atlantic salmon.
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Aquaculture, or fish farming, has increasingly stepped in to fill the gap where capture fishing fails to meet consumer demand. Largely dominated by Asia, the aquaculture industry grew dramatically for decades but recently has begun recently to moderate.
- Capture fishery production stopped growing in the mid 1980s. Even as consumer demand continues to rise, fisheries worldwide are on the verge of collapse, largely due to overfishing. Overall, 82 percent of world fish stocks are already fully exploited, overexploited or endangered.
- Aquaculture currently provides 46 percent of fish consumed worldwide.
- Over the past 50 years, world aquaculture grew dramatically, from 1 million tonnes in the early 1950s to 52 million tonnes in 2008 – making it a $98 billion industry.
- Aquaculture has maintained an annual growth rate of 6.6 percent worldwide (excluding China) since 1970.
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Benefits of Land-Based Aquaculture Systems
Is there a need for a faster-growing fish?
By 2020, the global demand for animal protein is projected to be 20 million tonnes per year. AquAdvantage® eggs will help address the need for healthy protein by producing more fish in less time compared to current salmon farming techniques. AquAdvantage® Salmon can be grown in contained facilities which offer environmental advantages compared to historical cultivation methods.
Don't consumers already have enough salmon?
Salmon is a popular seafood choice, not only for taste, but for the well-documented health benefits. This has increased demand for farmed and wild salmon products that the industry and capture fisheries will not be able to meet.
Are farmed salmon a healthy alternative to wild salmon?
Atlantic salmon is a great source of heart healthy Omega-3 fatty acids. AquAdvantage® eggs are designed for growth in land-based salmon hatcheries that will provide high-quality facility management and control. There is a lower likelihood for the introduction and spread of disease, and a corresponding reduction in the need for disease treatment. In addition, contrary to unsubstantiated claims disseminated by opponents of this technology, genetically modified salmon do not contain toxins.
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Can fast-growing salmon help reduce pressures on dwindling wild fisheries?
Many of the world's fisheries are in distress or in danger of collapse. A 2006 study published in Science predicted the loss of all commercially captured species of fish by 2048 if current fishing practices are maintained. Yet overfishing continues as the demand for seafood increases. The vast majority of Atlantic salmon sold in the U.S. is farmed. Many American wild salmon populations are in steep decline, so much so that commercial fishing runs in West Coast have been closed several times. With closures in early 2009, salmon fishermen lost their livelihood for the second season in a row and the price of wild salmon soared as a result of shortened supply. By providing a ready source of faster-growing fish, salmon grown from AquAdvantage® eggs can help reduce pressure on wild fish stocks.
Won't the demand for salmon food offset any protection of wild fish stocks?
Accelerated growth means shorter production cycles and more efficient use of feed. The feed conversion rate for AquAdvantage® Salmon is approximately 10% better than other farmed salmon. Additionally, there are emerging technologies in the salmon feed industry that use more sustainable foodstuffs for salmon feeds, reducing the amount of fishmeal and fish oil used.
Does this fish have any impact on carbon emissions?
Because fresh and frozen fish are flown to markets all over the world, seafood has a large carbon footprint. AquAdvantage® Salmon are designed for on-shore facilities that can be built closer to consumers to reduce the need for energy-intensive shipping and transportation.
Isn't fish farming bad for the environment?
The contained, land-based systems used by customers of AquAdvantage® eggs are endorsed by most environmental groups as a more environmentally friendly and responsible alternative to traditional sea-cage farming of salmon.
Won't the fish escape and breed with native populations?
Fish grown from AquAdvantage® eggs are all female and sterile, making it impossible for them to breed amongst themselves. In addition, FDA approval requires them to be grown in physically contained systems, further reducing any potential impact on wild populations.
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How do aquaculture producers benefit?
Faster growth and greater efficiency mean a more efficient use of capital, reduced feed costs and less time to market. Better economics makes interest in land-based culture feasible, which leads to better biosecurity, reduced disease risk and the opportunity to grow salmon closer to markets.
How do restaurants benefit?
The majority of seafood consumed in the U.S. is in restaurants. The AquAdvantage® Salmon developed by AquaBounty will help increase supply to satisfy growing demand with a dependable, high quality product.
American Economic Growth
Aquaculture provides opportunities for U.S. jobs. Today the U.S. imports over 97% of the Atlantic salmon sold to consumers. The introduction of land-based salmon farms in the U.S. would spur investment into this industry in our country.
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Myths and Facts
Why do we need AquAdvantage® Salmon?
Approximately 82 percent of world fish stocks are estimated to be overexploited, depleted or endangered1, at a time when the demand for fish protein is exploding—up from 14.4 kg in the 1990s to 17.1 kg in 2008 – a 18.8% increase in per capita consumption2. With the world population expected to reach 9 billion by 20503, demand for critical sources of protein continues to substantially outstrip the available supply.
Aquaculture – responsible for more than half the fish consumed in the U.S. today -- provides a means of at least partially meeting this demand, but we cannot expect to feed a burgeoning global population without employing every tool at our disposal – including enhancing aquaculture productivity through genetic engineering. Fast-growing fish produced from AquAdvantage salmon eggs are one of at least 18 different accelerated growth varieties of fish under development in countries around the world that can help us to feed an overpopulated planet4. It is the first to undergo review by a regulatory body so that it can begin to provide people with a safe, valuable and healthy source of much-needed protein, while simultaneously reducing the pressure on wild fisheries.
The FDA Review and Approval Process
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has gone to great lengths to ensure that the review process for this first application for a transgenic food animal is completely beyond reproach. In fact, it is putting all genetically modified food animals through the more rigorous review process it uses for drugs, because these health and safety requirements for drugs are the toughest and most demanding that exist and they are considered the “gold standard” for safety throughout the world. AquAdvantage® Salmon, a fish biologically and chemically indistinguishable from the Atlantic salmon, which has now been exhaustively studied for more than 15 years, is going through a far tougher and more critical review than any other food product on the market. Should the FDA deem this salmon safe to eat, consumers can have total confidence in this thoroughly researched conclusion.
What Is the Environmental Impact?
Environmental activists have questioned whether fish grown in closed aquaculture systems could escape into the wild and establish breeding populations that might threaten native fish stocks. Thorough investigation has shown there is no reason to believe AquAdvantage® salmon could either escape from their land-based contained systems OR reproduce in the wild and that they pose no threat whatsoever to wild salmon populations. AquAdvantage® salmon will be grown as sterile, all-female populations in land-based facilities with redundant means of containment. In fact, they pose significantly fewer risks than the current industry practice of farming fertile, mixed-sex populations of cultured salmon in ocean pens from which millions of fish escape on an annual basis.5
Concerns about a proposal for an AquAdvantage® Salmon facility in Maine that would allegedly discharge into the Atlantic Ocean are likewise unfounded. Hundreds of thousands of salmon escape from net pens each year, most recently in incidents in the waters in British Columbia. 6, 7, 8 AquAdvantage® Salmon will ONLY be raised in FDA-approved land-based facilities equipped with multiple physical containment measures that will make it impossible for the salmon to escape. In addition, these fish will have the biosecurity enhancement of being sterile, single sex populations that are incapable of breeding amongst themselves or with native fish.
One of the major benefits of these physically contained, land-based production facilities is their efficiency and increased productivity. AquAdvantage® land-based facilities reduce impact on coastal areas; eliminate the threat of disease transfer from farms to wild fish; and grow more fish with less feed. They also permit greater control of inputs and waste products, allowing operators to control both more efficiently. Further, production systems can be sited anywhere, not just in sensitive coastal areas, and can be located near major consumer markets, thus further reducing the environmental impact associated with air and ocean freight. With the world population growing, and demand for healthy protein sources increasing, technologies such as this will help the U.S. lead the way in safely and efficiently producing a globally important source of animal protein.
The Myth of the Trojan Gene
Some have suggested that GE Salmon could infiltrate wild populations and precipitate an “extinction event.” There is simply no basis for this in reality. Even Dr. Bill Muir, the author of the Trojan Gene hypothesis, told the FDA Veterinary Medicine Advisory Committee that “the data conclusively shows that there is no Trojan Gene effect”9 associated with AquAdvantage® Salmon. What’s more, this fish would likely fail to survive among wild salmon, as they are incapable of breeding and less likely to succeed in a competition for food.
Studies performed at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Canada's Center for Aquaculture and Environmental Research concluded that both cultured and transgenic salmon would have little success in a natural environment when competing against their wild counterparts for mates. In one study that combined transgenic fish and wild salmon, the transgenic fish made up half of the fish in the sample, but were responsible for less than 6% of the offspring from that sample10. When comparing cultured fish to wild salmon in a similar study, the cultured fish did not fare much better than the transgenic fish had with regards to reproductive capabilities. Furthermore, researchers also discovered that the transgenic males had reduced sperm quality as compared to wild salmon11. These results show that when competing against wild salmon for mates, both transgenic and cultured salmon would be at a significant disadvantage.
What About Health Concerns?
Critics argue that the sample size used for AquaBounty’s studies on allergenicity was insufficient. However, the FDA was satisfied with the data and concluded there were no concerns regarding allergenicity12. What’s more, its analysis concluded that AquAdvantage® Salmon are no different than any other Atlantic salmon in terms of allergenicity13.
Others worry that GE fish are more susceptible to diseases and therefore will receive more antibiotics that might be harmful to humans and could cause fatal allergic reactions. Again, this is blatantly false. Commercially popular strains of Atlantic salmon that are commonly used in salmon farming formed the genetic platform for AquAdvantage® Salmon, so AquAdvantage® Salmon are not more vulnerable to disease than conventional lines of Atlantic salmon commonly used in salmon farms.AquAdvantage® Salmon are less exposed to disease because they are raised in a land-based system. Therefore, there would be a reduced need for antibiotics. There is absolutely no evidence that these fish might accumulate toxins in any way differently than conventionally farmed salmon. Due to inherently better biosecurity measures, salmon grown in land-based systems will have even less disease incidence and reduced need for treatment compared to conventional production.
Shouldn’t AquAdvantage® Salmon Be Labeled as Genetically Modified?
The nutritional and biological composition of AquAdvantage® Salmon is identical to Atlantic salmon. On this basis, current law and policy would not require additional labeling based upon method of production. The product should be labeled "Atlantic salmon." The FDA has the legal authority to require labeling when there is a difference in the nutritional value, composition, safety (allergenicity) or processability of a food compared with its traditional counterpart.14 The bottom line on labeling is that it must be truthful and in no way mislead the consumer. Labeling must provide to the consumer necessary and relevant information on nutrition and safety. We do, however, support voluntary branding by the farmers who grow our salmon, which will help identify the environmentally friendly benefits of this product. In addition, we support “labeling by exclusion” – labels that note that a fish is “non-GMO”, for example.
A Ban on GE Fish?
Despite the numerous benefits of transgenic salmon, Alaska’s Congressional delegation has introduced legislation that calls for a halt to FDA approval of this product, as well as a separate bill that would require GE fish to be labeled as such. This legislation is misguided on many levels. The senators are acting based on unfounded fears, not hard data, citing concerns that AquAdvantage® Salmon would threaten wild stocks and their habitat – neither of which has any basis in fact. Their claims of food safety and environmental risk are contradicted by the documents and data made public by the FDA after the VMAC meeting.
The senators also cite concerns that AquAdvantage® Salmon would have an adverse economic impact on Alaska’s salmon fisheries, though it’s far more likely that the opposite would occur. AquAdvantage® Salmon, if approved, will compete in the market segment currently supplied by imported foreign Atlantic salmon. The existing market is shared between wild caught Alaskan and imported farm raised Atlantic salmon. The Alaskan wild caught industry can perhaps satisfy one-half of the existing US demand for salmon, and commands a premium price due to its successful market presentation. Alaskan fisheries are well managed, but of finite capacity. The availability of AquAdvantage® Salmon can help meet demand for a safe and sustainable food by providing a US-grown farmed Atlantic salmon, without stressing the valuable and finite Alaskan fisheries, preserving their markets.
1FAO Fisheries and Agriculture Department. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The State of World Fisheries and Agriculture. (Rome: FAO, 2010), 8.
2FAO Fisheries and Agriculture Department. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The State of World Fisheries and Agriculture. (Rome: FAO, 2010), 64.
3FAO Fisheries and Agriculture Department. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The State of World Fisheries and Agriculture. (Rome: FAO, 2010), 69.
4Eric Hallerman. Presentation to VMAC. Veterinary Advisory Committee Meeting. DoubleTree Hotel, Rockville, MD. 20 Sept. 2010.
5Michael Erisman. “Response to VMAC Brief & Advisory Committee Meeting,” AquaBounty Technologies, Inc. 7 Oct. 2010, 7.
6“Escaped Atlantic Salmon,” Living Oceans Society 2010, 14 Mar. 2011. <http://www.livingoceans.org/programs/fishfarms/environment/escaped_salmon.aspx>.
7“30,000 Atlantic salmon escape from a B.C. fish farm,” Seattle Post Intelligencer 4 July 2008, 14 Mar. 2011. <http://www.seattlepi.com/local/369697_salmon05.html>.
8“40,000 salmon escape B.C. farm,” CBC News 23 October 2009, 14 Mar. 2011. <http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/story/2009/10/23/bc-salmon-farm-escape.html>.
9U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Veterinary Medicine Committee Meeting, AquAdvantage Salmon. (Rockville, MD: HHS, 2010) 317.
10Patrick, John et al. “Cultured growth hormone transgenic salmon are reproductively out-competed by wild-reared salmon in semi-natural mating arenas.” Aquaculture 29 Nov. 2010: 188.
11Patrick, John et al. “Cultured growth hormone transgenic salmon are reproductively out-competed by wild-reared salmon in semi-natural mating arenas.” Aquaculture 29 Nov. 2010: 189.
12U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Veterinary Medicine Advisory Committee Briefing Packet, AquAdvantage Salmon. (Washington, D.C.: HHS, 2010) 61.
13U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Veterinary Medicine Advisory Committee Briefing Packet, AquAdvantage Salmon. (Washington, D.C.: HHS, 2010) 62.
14“Food and Drugs” Title 21 U.S. Code. Pts. 343. 2007 ed.
Section 2 (b) of Pub. L. 101-535, as amended by Pub. L. 102-571, title II, Sec. 202(a)(2)(A), (B), Oct. 29, 1992, 106 Stat. 4500, 4501:
``(D) permit the nutrition information on the label or labeling
of a food to remain the same or permit the information to be stated
as a range even though (i) there are minor variations in the
nutritional value of the food which occur in the normal course of
the production or processing of the food, or (ii) the food is
comprised of an assortment of similar foods which have variations in
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Documents and Scientific Bibliography
Aerni, Philipp; Risk, regulation and innovation: The case of aquaculture and transgenic fish. Aquatic Sciences, 66 (2004) 327-341.
Butler and Fletcher. 2009. Theriogenology 72: 67-71
Du et al. 1992. Nature Biotechnology 10: 176-181
Fletcher and Hew. 1999. In: Ketagawa et al (eds.) Animal Cell Technology: Basic and Applied Aspects 10: 101-105
Qin and Brown, 2006. Consumer Opinions about Genetically Engineered Salmon and Information Effect on Opinions. Science Communication, Volume 28, Number 2
Worm, et all. Impacts of Biodiversity Loss on Ocean Ecosystem Services. Science 3 November 2006: Vol. 314 no 5800, pp 787-790
FAO Yearbook (2007) - Fishery and Aquaculture Statistics (Rome, 2009)
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Science and Space - May 2002
How to Feed the World in 2050 - FAO - October 8, 2009
Feed the world: grow fish in Alberta's badlands - December 7, 2009
Fish Farming and Genetically Modified Fish for Feeding a Future World - September 23, 2008
Food Security: The Challenge of Feeding 9 Billion People - January 28, 2010
A Menu for Feeding 9 Billion - February 11, 2010
Recirculating aquaculture systems: The future of fish farming? - February 24, 2010
Genetically modified foods get U.S. traction, global debate - March 17, 2010
Fish farms can help fix damaged eco-systems - March 24, 2010
For Earth Day, 7 New Rules to Live By - April 19, 2010
Genetically Altered Salmon Get Closer to the Table - June 25, 2010
Uh, Oh. FrankenSalmon! Why is genetically modified food so scary? - June 28, 2010
A Futures Market in Fish Is Inevitable. The Question Is When? - June 29, 2010
Bias Infects The Gray Lady - June 30, 2010
Food Ignorance, Confusion and Why the Kitchen is Empty - July 13, 2010
Genetically engineered salmon could be on plates soon - July 21, 2010
Poised on History's Doorstep: Super Salmon or Frankenfish? - August 9, 2010
How I Learned to Love Farmed Fish - September 1, 2010
Why the worry about GM salmon? - September 7, 2010
Risk Assessment and Mitigation of AquAdvantage Salmon - October 2010
[ISB News Report - PDF]
AquaBounty Responds to Environmental Groups' Allegations - November 18, 2010
Henry I. Miller: Salmon label bill should be thrown back - April 4, 2011
Cultured growth hormone transgenic salmon are reproductively out-competed by wild-reared salmon in semi-natural mating arenas - April 20, 2011
The Use and Abuse of Science in Policymaking - The regulation of biotechnology provides a cautionary tale of politicized science.
[http://www.aquabounty.com/documents/misc/H.Miller Article in Regulation.pdf]
Letter of support from Dr. William M. Muir, Professor of Genetics, Purdue University
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