After a lengthy premarket approval process, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has just deemed AquAdvantage Salmon, a fast-growing, genetically engineered salmon, safe for human consumption. AquAdvantage Salmon is the first genetically engineered animal designed for human consumption to go to market in the United States. Because there have been no significant changes to the statutory or regulatory framework governing agricultural biotechnology since it was established in the 1980s, the FDA reviews applications of genetically engineered animals under the New Animal Drug Application (NADA) provisions of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA). The FDA’s treatment of genetically engineered food as a new animal drug has been criticized due to potential environmental and human health risks, and because of a lack of transparency throughout the regulatory process. After providing an overview of the premarket approval process, this Issue Brief argues that even under the NADA provisions, the FDA’s premarket approval risk assessment should be more transparent. In particular, the justification for trade secret status of relevant biotechnology is undermined, if not extinguished, by the need for public consideration of the biotechnology’s safety and effectiveness after a certain time in the approval process. Furthermore, the comment period prior to advisory committee meetings should be lengthened to allow for greater scientific input on safety and effectiveness, and an independent body should be created to communicate with the public about food safety.


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