Though Kapuscinski and others had hoped for the more rigorous EIS, the VMAC ended up recommending that the FDA revise its Environmental Assessment. And that seems to be what it is doing, according to a rare public statement on a pending case made by FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg. An EA will be released “very soon,” she told the New York Times.
Those who are concerned at the prospect of this technology gaining FDA approval might be even more alarmed at the possibility that, if that approval doesn’t come soon, the technology behind the AquAdvantage salmon might move to where the FDA has no say in the matter at all.
After nearly two decades of waiting for permission to market its only product, AquaBounty is out of money. This isn’t the first time AquaBounty has run into difficulties, but it might be the last. The company is already being carved up.
In a March 22 meeting this year, AquaBounty shareholders approved the sale of the Prince Edward Island hatchery to the company’s major shareholder, Linneaus Capital Partners (technically, to its wholly-owned subsidiary, Tethys), in an effort to trim operating costs. Shareholders also approved a private sale of additional stock shares to raise enough money to cover an additional 10 months of expenses. That money will run out in January.
Linneaus Capital Partners controls the means to produce the AquAdvantage salmon eggs, and Linneaus is controlled by a Georgian businessman named Kakha Bendukidze. A free-market libertarian who was once Georgia’s finance minister, Bendukidze is credited with making the country more business friendly, in part by gutting its regulatory industry—including its food safety and inspection services.
If FDA approval is denied or delayed, there doesn’t appear to be much stopping Bendukidze, who did not respond to requests for comment, from seeking alternative markets for the technology. Perhaps his home country
Linneaus also controls several open-water sea-cage fish farms in the Mediterranean and North Seas, as well as a venture called Grow Fish Anywhere. AquaBounty is hoping its Panama facility can demonstrate the profits to be had with inland fish farming.
“They’re saying that they’re going to be land-based,” Kapuscinski told me. “I’ll believe it when I see it. Right now all the capital in the salmon farming industry is invested in cage culture, for some good reasons, because that’s much easier to make financially viable.”