FDA amends GE Salmon Environmental Assessment, CAGJ responds

Sockeye Salmon. Photo credit: Xuanlu Wang / Shutterstock

In the latest development in our campaign of resistance to AquaBounty’s genetically engineered (GE) salmon, CAGJ submitted a critique to the Food and Drug Association (FDA). Our comment, which highlighted the FDA’s failure to consult with Northwest tribes, was in response to their latest environmental assessment. 

AquaBounty has been developing its G.E. AquaAdvantage Salmon (AAS) in its Prince Edward Island and now-shuttered Panama facilities since 1989. In 2015, the FDA approved AAS based on an Environmental Assessment where they found “no significant impact” to the environment. The FDA subsequently made a “no effect” determination under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). This was the first GE animal ever to be approved, in any country, for human consumption.

Environmental and Washington state tribal groups filed suit challenging their Environmental Assessment and ESA “no effect” determination. In 2020, a federal court found that the FDA’s 2015 approval of GE Salmon failed to meaningfully analyze what may happen to wild salmon in the event of a containment breach. The court ordered the FDA to reassess potential risks of farmed GE Salmon on the environment. Last November, per the court order, the FDA published a draft-amended Environmental Assessment of Prince Edward Island facility. CAGJ submitted the following comment, joining Center for Food Safety, Friends of the Earth and many others concerned about the growing production and distribution of this so-called salmon. 


Community Alliance for Global Justice (CAGJ) is a Seattle-based community organization committed to the global food sovereignty movement. CAGJ is driven to change unjust agricultural and trade policies at home and abroad. We find the issue of genetically engineered (GE) Salmon compelling since Northwest Tribes have been particularly outspoken about the threats that this experimental salmon potentially pose to the ecosystem. Northwest tribes depend greatly on salmon as a traditional food that not only nourishes but carries deep cultural value. In the Northwest, most salmon species are endangered, and a GE Salmon breach would expedite extinction.

Thus, we stand with Muckleshoot Tribal members, the Quinault Indian Nation and all Washington tribes in opposing genetically engineered salmon. Although our partners are locally based, we fight alongside a nation-wide movement that includes actors like the Yurok Tribe in California and the National Congress of American Indians. 

Before the 2015 FDA approval of GE Salmon, the National Congress of American Indians called upon the FDA “to have meaningful government-to-government consultations pursuant to Executive Order 13175 in regards to this issue before taking any action on genetically engineered salmon.” However, the FDA never reached out for tribal consultation during its assessment, disregarding the significant cultural, economic and environmental consequences of a facility escape. 

Despite the resulting approval, we and our partners have continued to advocate for wild salmon. We jointly produced the film Salmon People to raise awareness of the consequences of GE Salmon on Indigenous lifeways. In 2016, under the leadership of President Fawn Sharp, the Quinault Indian Nation joined the Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice lawsuit against the FDA. 

During this draft-amended EA period, we are calling on the FDA to respond to the NCAI’s request for consultation. 

FDA approval of GE salmon would undermine tribal efforts to replenish salmon runs by diverting resources away from restoration and into corporate advancements. In addition, GE Salmon pose serious risks to the environment and human health, as cited by Center for Food Safety and Friends of the Earth. In the event of a highly likely escape, GE salmon threatens wild salmon biodiversity through inevitable interbreeding, competition for resources, and disease transmission. Human consumption of GE salmon raises concerns about the adverse effects of antibiotics. Approval sets a dangerous precedent for disregarding tribal concerns, and environmental and consumer health in our food systems. 

The FDA must revisit their environmental assessment of AquaAdvantage Salmon in consultation with the NCAI. They must consider the potential consequences of GE salmon for tribes, in addition to the impacts on the environment and human health.


To learn more about G.E. Salmon, watch CAGJ’s short film Salmon People, read about CAGJ’s G.E. salmon solidarity campaign, visit Uprooted and Rising’s Block Corporate Salmon campaign page, and read Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice’s Comment to the FDA: Center for Food Safety and EarthJustice Comments on Amended GE Salmon EA.


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