By Consumers Union on Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010
When trying to make sense of a complicated issue like genetically engineered animals, the media turns to the experts to help explain what’s going on.
CU Senior Scientist Michael Hansen, not only an expert in GE foods but also a staunch advocate of consumer interests, has been one hot ticket this week.
Here’s a sampling of a few of his statements featured this week against the approval of GE salmon, and in defense of consumers’ rights to know what they’re eating.
Los Angeles Times
Genetically engineered salmon: ban it or label it?
Consumer’s Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, opposed the approval of the salmon, saying it has not been shown to be safe, and argued it should be labeled in the event that it eventually reaches the market. “FDA should require labeling to insure that any unexpected or unintended effects of engineering this salmon … come to FDA attention,” said CU senior scientist Michael Hansen. “Drugs approved by FDA as safe have turned out to have unexpected health effects after they were widely used by consumers.”
Union to FDA: Say NO to Genetically Modified Salmon
Committee members had better brace themselves for a blast from Michael Hansen, Senior Scientist at the Consumers Union. “FDA requires new animal drugs to be shown to be safe for animals, humans, and the environment. This has not been shown for the GE salmon. The data presented, although woefully incomplete, do raise a potential serious human health issue—that of increased allergenicity,” he wrote in a prepared statement (PDF), going on to lambaste the approval process. “The FDA has set the bar very low,” he said, citing flaws such as “sloppy science,” “small sample sizes (only six fish),” “questionable practices,” and “woefully inadequate analysis.”
A giant leap into the unknown: GM salmon that grows and grows
If the FDA gives its approval, which many commentators believe is now inevitable given that its scientists have found little to argue against doing so, the opponents of the GM salmon insist that it should at least be clearly labelled as a product of genetic engineering. “It is essential to label a genetically engineered animal so that any unexpected effects will be recognised and consumer health protected,” said Michael Hansen, a senior scientist at the US Consumers Union, who disagrees with the FDA’s ruling that genetic engineering in itself does not constitute a material difference between the GM fish and its wild counterpart.
Dr. Michael Hansen, senior scientist at Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports, testified that his organization disagrees with the FDA that genetic engineering itself does not constitute a material difference in the two fish. He added that the agency does have the authority to demand the labels, citing previous rules that allowed foods to be labeled so people with religious or cultural sensitivities could avoid them.
Labeling is also a safeguard for the safety of the fish, Hansen said.
“You need this labeling so if there’s a problem down the road, you can trace it back,” he said.
You can also check out this knock-down debate that Michael participated in on NPR.