Washington, D.C.—Food & Water Watch today is calling on the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) to force AquaBounty Technologies, the producer of genetically engineered salmon, to come clean to investors about the risks the company faces as it attempts to join NASDAQ. In a complaint filed with the SEC, Food & Water Watch highlights some of the ways in which AquaBounty’s SEC filing misrepresents the market barriers, regulatory hurdles and financial prospects facing its sole product, GE salmon.
“The SEC needs to ensure that investors are able to distinguish between what AquaBounty says in its disclosures and the facts on the ground,” said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. “Aquabounty’s SEC filing confirms a long history of misrepresentation and missing transparency. Even the FDA was recently compelled to rein in AquaBounty for falsely stating that FDA will not require GE salmon to be labeled.”
AquaBounty’s SEC filing fails to disclose that even if the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does eventually allow GE salmon to be sold in the United States (this regulatory decision is still pending), making it the world’s first biotech food animal, AquaBounty may not be able to produce it in the United States without sign-off from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, which has advocated for a separate and more rigorous review process that could take years to complete. The company’s SEC filing also fails to disclose a pending legal action in Panama that alleges the company has been operating without legally required permits and inspections, the outcome of which could result in penalties or regulatory delays, which would clearly be of interest to investors.
AquaBounty also recites unsubstantiated benefit claims in its SEC filing, including that GE salmon can reach market weight in half the time as conventional salmon. In reality, life-cycle growth rates have never been empirically studied—including by the FDA—and salmon growers say conventional salmon can grow as fast or faster than GE salmon.
“As our complaint with the SEC shows, GE salmon offers no obvious growth-rate advantage, has a history of disease and appears prone to deformities—all of which point to higher costs of production,” said Hauter. “Investors should have a clear understanding of what this product can and cannot do. We’re calling on the SEC to step in and separate fact from fiction.”
The company also misrepresents potential market resistance to GMO salmon by framing it as a passing, hypothetical concern. In fact, the company’s market access is already drying up, as some of the nation’s largest grocery retailers, representing $2 of every $5 spent in supermarkets, have already said they will not be selling GE salmon.
AquaBounty currently trades on the Alternative Investment Market of the London Stock Exchanges, where its share price has plummeted between January and May 2014.
Official complaint filed with the SEC: http://fwwat.ch/TebctK