| WASHINGTON, March 13
WASHINGTON, March 13 The U.S. Food and Drug
Administration is still considering whether a proposed
genetically engineered fish is safe for consumers, the agency's
top official said on Thursday.
FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said it was examining as
many as 35,000 comments about the application on the salmon by
Boston-based AquaBounty Technologies Inc, which
applied for approval in the mid-1990s.
"We will be moving forward in a deliberate, science-driven
way, reflecting all of the important inputs ... as we consider
this product application," Hamburg told the U.S. Senate's
Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee during a hearing
about the agency's current initiatives.
AquaBounty officials could not be reached for comment. The
company has said in the past that it expected a decision from
the FDA by the end of 2013.
Hamburg did not say when the FDA would make its final
If the altered fish, known as AdquAdvantage salmon, is
approved, it would be the first genetically altered animal
product to reach the plates of consumers in the United States.
The company has said its salmon is safe to eat and could
help address numerous food supply issues, including the demand
for healthier foods and depleted fish stocks, because it is
engineered to grow more quickly.
But environmental, health and consumer advocates have raised
concerns, citing unknown long-term effects on people and the
planet of a genetically altered food.
Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska told Hamburg she
wanted assurances that the agency would not allow the fish to be
sold if it could not determine it was safe. She also said if the
agency does approve it, the fish should carry clear labeling to
show it is genetically altered.
"I don't believe that the FDA has adequately studied the
environmental effects, the economic impacts ... let alone the
potential health impacts on humans," said Murkowski, whose state
is home to a significant fishing industry.
"If we could guarantee that it wasn't safe to eat, then it
would not pass our approval standards," Hamburg said.