Now that AquaBounty has the US government's go-ahead to begin growing and selling its genetically modified AquAdvantage farmed salmon to US consumers, will the fish it produces get the green light from the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) and other certification groups?
Currently, ASC standards prohibit the certification of transgenic animals, Sun Brage, ASC's communication manager, told IntraFish on Monday.
“The ASC Salmon Standard does not permit transgenic salmon due to concerns about their unknown impact on wild populations," she said.
"Furthermore, the ASC Standard requires that should genetically modified ingredients be used in the feed, this has to be communicated to the buyer. ASC is the only leading aquaculture certification program making that requirement.”
OK with GAA
The rival Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA), however, said AquaBounty's land-based grow-out facility in Albany, Indiana, would be eligible to apply for BAP certification under GAA's Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) program.
"As it currently stands, companies growing GM salmon in marine-based cage systems are not eligible to apply for BAP certification under the BAP salmon farm standards, due to the risk of escaped fish and the unknown consequences on wild salmon populations," the GAA told IntraFish in a statement.
"However, companies growing GM salmon in land-based, closed-containment systems are eligible to apply for BAP certification under the BAP finfish and crustacean farm standards. AquAdvantage’s grow-out facility would be eligible to apply for BAP certification, if the company so chooses."
To attain BAP certification, the company would have to demonstrate, through GAA's third-party, independent audit process, that the facility satisfies every component of the standards, the group said.
"The implementation guidelines state: 'Should genetically modified finfish or crustaceans be commercialized in the future, producers shall comply with all regulations in producing and consuming countries regarding such organisms. Since some consumers do not desire genetically modified foods, they should be provided with reliable information to enable informed food choices,'" GAA said in its statement.
GAA’s independent, 12-member Standards Oversight Committee (SOC) is meeting next week and GM fish is among the items on the agenda, in addition to animal welfare, soybean sustainability, antimicrobial resistance and social responsibility.
OK with Monterey
The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program also has a clear path for giving GM salmon its highest rating.
Seafood Watch recommendations do not specifically consider whether or not a species is genetically engineered, Ryan Bigelow, Seafood Watch senior program manager, told IntraFish.
"Indoor recirculating tanks receive a Best Choice recommendation because they have less effluent, disease, escapes and habitat impacts than other aquaculture systems," he said. "Because the salmon in question is farmed with that methodology, it receives that recommendation without any consideration of whether it is genetically modified."