The Court ruled that FDA failed to consider and study the environmental risks of this novel GE fish. When GE salmon escape or are accidentally released into the environment, the new species could threaten wild populations by mating with endangered salmon species, outcompeting them for scarce resources and habitat, and/or introducing new diseases. The world’s preeminent experts on GE fish and risk assessment, as well as biologists at U.S. wildlife agencies charged with protecting fish and wildlife, heavily criticized FDA’s approval for failing to evaluate the impacts of GE salmon on native salmon populations. Yet FDA ignored their concerns in the final approval.
“This decision underscores what scientists have been telling FDA for years—that creating genetically engineered salmon poses an unacceptable risk if the fish escape and interact with our wild salmon and that FDA must understand that risk to prevent harm,” said Earthjustice managing attorney Steve Mashuda. “Our efforts should be focused on saving the wild salmon populations we already have—not manufacturing new species that pose yet another threat to their survival.”
Studies have shown that there is a high risk for genetically engineered organisms to escape into the natural environment, and that genetically engineered salmon can crossbreed with native fish. So-called “transgenic contamination”—where genetically engineered crops cross-pollinate or establish themselves in nearby fields or the wild—has become common. These contamination episodes have cost U.S. farmers billions of dollars over the past decade. In wild organisms like fish, it would be even more damaging.