Animal Law Review

First Page



One year ago, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed approval of the first genetically engineered (GE or transgenic) animal for food production—a salmon engineered to grow much faster than normal using genetic material from an ocean pout. Faced with concerns from scientists and the public that these “super” salmon will escape into the wild and be the final blow to wild salmon, proponents crafted a scheme that is half Michael Crichton, half Kurt Vonnegut: The engineered salmon eggs will begin life in a lab on a frozen Canadian island, then be airlifted to a guarded Panamanian fortress, where they will grow in inland tanks. After the fish reach maturity, the company will ship them back to the U.S. and sell them in grocery stores, likely without any labeling.

Unfortunately, this is not a bad science fiction novel. How did we get to this juncture, the brink of this approval? This Essay is a snapshot of GE animals through the lens of the first one proposed for commercial approval. Part I discusses AquaBounty’s “AquAdvantage” GE salmon, with a focus on the environmental risks it poses. Part II looks behind the camera, explaining the philosophy that has fostered the emergence of engineered animals for industrial food production. Part III provides an overview of genetic engineering and transgenic animals. Part IV summarizes health, environmental, and animal welfare concerns. Part V explains what the lessons of agricultural biotechnology portend for animal biotechnology. Part VI discusses FDA’s problematic regulatory pathway. This Essay concludes by returning to underlying principles.



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