Posted on: April 5, 2019 at 5:08 pm
Last updated: June 18, 2020 at 4:58 pm

Soy, corn, cotton, and canola are some of the most widely grown GMO crops today, and soon we’re going to see the world’s first ever genetically modified or engineered animal, AquAdvantage salmon hit markets, restaurants, and stores in the US.


The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made the announcement on March 8, 2019 stating that this approval “followed a comprehensive analysis of the scientific evidence, which determined that the GE Atlantic salmon met the statutory requirements for safety and effectiveness under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act”, and it is now approved for human consumption.[1]

In fact, the research for engineering salmon started back in the mid-80s, and the first ever GMO salmon was developed in 1989 at Memorial University in Newfoundland, Canada. [2]. But, it wasn’t until 2015 that the FDA first approved its sale in the US. It was met with plenty of backlash, and in 2016 Congress requested that the FDA block the salmon from being sold until lawmakers could agree on labeling guidelines for bioengineered foods. That’s until now!



Genetically engineered salmon also dubbed Frankenfish by activists is a type of Atlantic salmon that’s been altered to:

  • grow year-round (instead of only seasonally in spring and summer)
  • grow to market size in half the time (16 to 18 months instead of 3 years)

This is done by adding a growth hormone gene from Pacific Chinook salmon and a promoter gene from ocean pout.

With overfishing [3], pollution and plastics, as well as both the increase in demand and reduction in the availability of wild salmon, AquaBounty [4] (the company behind AquAdvantage salmon), is hoping to provide a sustainable solution that:

  • conserves wild fish populations,
  • reduces carbon emissions, and
  • provides a low impact on fish farming.

But is that all?


We can’t ignore the fact that being able to grow salmon year round and twice as fast means more profits for the parties involved. There have also been concerns raised by the Center for Food Safety in the US about the environmental impact this may have, and the possibility of the genetically engineered fish breeding with wild salmon. [5]


The fish eggs are currently being produced in the AquaBounty Farms located in Prince Edward Island, Canada. Those eggs are then shipped and bred in Panama and imported back as salmon for human consumption that’s currently being sold in the Canadian market.

In fact, GM salmon was permitted for sale in Canada back in 2016 and on April 2, 2019, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change has also approved the first GM salmon production factory in Canada. [6]

Activists are concerned as that means more GM salmon on the market and no way of knowing if you’re buying or eating it as there are no labeling laws in Canada at the moment. Moreover, the makers of GM salmon don’t even want to disclose who they have sold roughly 9 tonnes of the product to in 2017, and 4.5 tonnes by mid-2018. [7]

For the US, the recent approval means that now the AquAdvantage salmon eggs can be brought from Canada and grown in the company’s facility in Indiana. The company estimates that without additional hurdles, the salmon could hit the US market as early as 2020.


There are some simple steps that you can follow if you want to avoid buying GM salmon:

  • Buy wild salmon
  • Don’t be afraid to ask where a restaurant sources their salmon
  • Look for an organic label on the package
  • If you are in Canada, you can find a list of retailers and their statements on the sale of GMO salmon here [8]
  • If you are in the US, look for a Bioengineered symbol, text message or digital link that will come into effect between 2020 and 2022. You can view the guidelines here [9]. Until then you can ask your store or restaurant for the source.

Unfortunately, even when you ask sometimes you may get the wrong answer as reports in both the US [10] and Canada [11] have shown that an average of 1 in 5 fish products are mislabeled.

So, instead of worrying about every single food that you are consuming, your best bet is to ensure that you are eating a lot of fresh, locally sourced whole foods most of the time, visiting farmer’s markets and getting to know your producers and your food.

What are your thoughts on the AquAdvantage GM salmon? Let us know below.

Mirna Sharafeddine, B.Sc., R.H.N.
Co-Founder, Naughty Nutrition
Having gone through her own health issues and struggling with yo-yo dieting for many years, inspired Mirna to focus on helping her clients break free from the diet cycle and fall back in love with the food on their plate. With a balanced and mindful approach to nutrition, she helps them create a realistic and individualized health plan to reach their health goals.

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