The FDA is set to approve genetically engineered (GE) salmon for human consumption. It would be the first time that a genetically engineered animal would be approved for people to eat, yet consumers are not rolling over on this one. Over 360,000 consumers, other federal agencies, and members of congress are all saying no to GE salmon and the FDA's flawed approval process. There is still time for the Obama administration to put the breaks on the FDA and demand a more comprehensive review, but the clock is ticking.
How'd this all start? A company called AquaBounty wants to produce a genetically engineered salmon that would be designed to grow faster than a wild salmon (for why GE salmon is not necessary for our food supply, see here). The FDA, lacking a solid process for reviewing genetically engineered animals as food, instead had its veterinary advisory panel take a look.
Despite concerns raised by that panel with the studies done by AquaBounty, the FDA is moving forward with another process to determine whether GE salmon should be labeled as such. Consumers, if the FDA continues on its current course, could end up not only eating potentially unsafe GE salmon, but also not even knowing whether the fish they purchase is genetically engineered or not.
Something is not right with this picture...and consumers and powerful members of congress are beginning to notice. Since the last FDA hearing:* Nearly 200,000 consumers have submitted comments to the FDA arguing that any GE salmon must be labeled as such (at the end of this release, you can also find a list of the broad coalition against GE salmon). This is in addition to the over 171,000 consumers tho previously urged the FDA to not approve GE Salmon. * Twenty nine members of the house signed a letter urging the FDA to stop its GE Salmon approval process. * Eleven senators signed a similar letter to the FDA. Since, senators Feinstein, Boxer, and Snowe have sent their own letters. * Legislation has been introduced in the House and Senate that would ban GE Salmon. * Explosive emails obtained by the consumer organization Food & Water Watch revealed deep opposition in other federal agencies to GE salmon. The Fish and Wildlife Service, a division of the interior department, weighed in against GE Salmon due to the risk of escapes, which could impact wild salmon populations. One government scientist even offhandedly suggested the FDA take a look at Jurassic Park to understand the potential impacts. * The Center for Food Safety released a document showing that the FDA withheld important information during recent approval hearings.
These are all really positive developments, but time is running out. The FDA closes its comment period on whether GE salmon should be labeled on November 22. It could approve GE salmon for people to eat and decide the labeling period at any time after that and the food and agriculture biotech industry has spent extensively to push their agenda. But there is still time to stop it and there are things we can do:* Write President Obama urging him to put the breaks on the FDA process. This action also sends a comment to the FDA. * Call your representative and ask them to support legislation in the house and senate that would ban GE salmon. * Join our virtual march on Facebook against GE Salmon
Approval of GE salmon in this current process filled with unknowns sets a terrible precedent, with other genetically engineered animals waiting in the wings. We've got to take action to make sure consumers and our wild salmon populations are protected.
(Disclosure - I work at Food & Water Watch)