Months after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the nation’s first genetically modified (GM) salmon for human consumption, the agency has issued a ban on the import and sale of the fish until health regulators can publish guidelines for how it should be labeled. 
The federal spending bill recently passed by Congress allows the agency to allocate at least $150,000 of its funding towards developing and implementing a directive to “disclose to consumers whether salmon [is] genetically engineered.”
AquAdvantage salmon, produced by Massachusetts-based AquaBounty, was approved by the FDA in November. The fish contains a growth hormone from a Chinook salmon and a gene from the ocean pout – the combination of the two helps the salmon grow large enough for consumption in 18 months, rather than the typical 3 years.
The FDA said it would only require labeling of the AquAdvantage salmon if “there is a material difference – such as a different nutritional profile” between the GM fish and its organic counterpart. The agency claims it found no difference.
But Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) pushed for verbiage in the spending bill, requiring the FDA to keep the salmon off the U.S. market until regulators finalized guidelines. The agency said it intends to fully comply with the bill’s guidance. 
“This is a huge step in our fight against ‘Frankenfish,’” Murkowski said in a statement Friday. “I firmly believe that mandatory labeling guidelines must be put in place as soon as possible so consumers know what it is they are purchasing. It seems that the FDA has begun to listen, and I hope this is a sign that the agency plans to develop these necessary guidelines.” 
Under the ban, all shipments of suspected genetically modified salmon are to be held and forwarded to the local FDA District Compliance Branch. 
On Friday, AquaBounty’s chief executive, Ronald Stotish, said in a statement that the FDA’s import alert “has no impact on AquaBounty’s operations as we are not currently importing our salmon into the United States.”
Julie Fidler is a freelance writer, legal blogger, and the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two ridiculously spoiled cats. She occasionally pontificates on her blog.