The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced today that it has approved the first genetically engineered animal intended for food: AquAdvantage salmon.
The AquAdvantage salmon is an Atlantic salmon that contains artificially-inserted growth hormone genes from Chinook salmon and a genetic promoter from ocean pout (an eel-like fish) that make the salmon grow to market size faster, the FDA said in a statement.
The agency added that after "exhaustive and rigorous scientific review," it has deemed that AquAdvantage salmon are "safe to eat by humans and animals" and that "genetic engineering is safe for the fish."
The GMO salmon will not be required to be labeled as genetically engineered, according to the FDA, which has the same policy for all genetically-engineered crops including corn and soy.
The "FDA can only require additional labeling of foods derived from GE sources if there is a material difference –- such as a different nutritional profile –- between the GE product and its non-GE counterpart," the agency said. "In the case of the AquAdvantage Salmon, the FDA did not find any such differences."
The FDA did not mention in its statement when the GE-salmon would be sold to U.S. consumers.
The federal approval of the GMO salmon and the lack of labeling requirements have sparked outrage and opposition by a number of food, health and environmental advocates.
Just hours after the FDA's announcement, The Center for Food Safety said it plans to sue the FDA, according to a news release. The lawsuit "will be filed in coordination with other colleague plaintiffs," according to the release.
The Center expressed concerns about possible unknown health risks to humans and added that if the GMO salmon escaped from pens, they could pose "serious risks" to "wild salmon populations that are already under duress."
The Center for Food Safety also pointed out that AquaBounty Technologies, which produces the genetically engineered salmon, was slapped with a $9,500 fine from Panama in 2014 after federal regulators found the company in breach of Panama environmental laws when an accidental disease outbreak lead to "lost" salmon.
AquaBounty Technologies, based in Maynard, Mass., applied for approval of its salmon in the 1990s. Its GMO salmon are currently being raised in Panama.
AquaBounty Technologies did not immediately respond to ABC News' requests for additional comment.
Food safety advocacy group Food and Water Watch also denounced the FDA's approval of the GMO salmon, urging President Obama "to overturn FDA’s approval and stop GMO salmon from reaching consumers’ dinner plates," it said in a statement.
"To add insult to injury, this product will be hitting store shelves without labeling, making it impossible for concerned consumers to distinguish GMO from non-GMO salmon," Food and Water Watch said. "Not only does this ignore consumers’ fundamental right to know how our food is produced, it is simply bad for business, since many consumers will avoid purchasing any salmon for fear it is genetically engineered."