By Lynn L. Bergeson
On March 8, 2019, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., released a statement on the continued efforts to advance safe biotechnology innovations, and the deactivation of an import alert on genetically engineered (GE) salmon. In his statement, Dr. Gottlieb emphasized FDA’s mission to evaluate the safety of intentional genomic alterations (IGA) in animals that will ultimately be sold for consumption in the U.S. According to FDA’s recent framework for the efficient development of safe biotechnology products, Plant and Animal Biotechnology Innovation Action Plan, Dr. Gottlieb stated that FDA has taken important steps to help advance new products.
Part of these efforts includes FDA’s 2015 decision to approve an application related to GE salmon containing the first approved IGA in an animal meant for food consumption. In 2016, however, the U.S. Congress directed FDA not to allow into commerce any food containing GE salmon until it issues final labeling guidelines for informing consumers of the GE salmon content in the food. Consequently, in compliance with Congressional views, FDA implemented an import alert in that same year that prevented GE salmon from entering the U.S. With the enactment of the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard (NBFDS) by Congress, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) was made responsible for the implementation of a mandatory standard for disclosing foods that are bioengineered. FDA was, therefore, divested of its authority over labeling GE content in human foods. Given the Congressional enactment of NBFDS, Dr. Gottlieb stated that FDA believes this Congressional mandate on GE salmon has been satisfied by USDA’s issuance of final regulations implementing NBFDS. NBFDS requires that human food containing GE salmon be labelled to indicate that it is bioengineered. Therefore, FDA has deactivated the import alert that prevented GE salmon from entering the U.S.