What’s the big deal about genetically engineered salmon?


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By Consumers Union on Friday, September 17th, 2010

Consumers Union is joining a host of other stakeholders in sending a strong message to the FDA that they shouldn’t rush the approval process, and that consumers have a right to know how they might be affected by this new technology before it hits the shelves (er, fish markets?).

Concerned parties – ranging from chefs to senators to scientists – have this to say about GE salmon:

Fisheries biologist: Anne Kapuscinski, professor of Sustainability Science at Dartmouth College

“If you put the top scientific researchers in this area into a room, they would have to work very hard together to figure out the conclusion for ecological risk. This is very, very complex.”

“If these genetically engineered salmon are approved, it will be setting worldwide precedent because salmon is a global commodity. It will be the first genetically engineered animal approved for human consumption and for wide-scale farming.”   – Washington Post

Chef:  Rick Moonen – Owner of RM Seafood in Las Vegas

“In restaurants, chefs are in a position to assure their guests that the food being served to them is not only delicious but also wholesome and safe to consume. How do we do this when there is no required labeling indicating that a fish has been manufactured by science and not a product of nature?”  –CNN

Scientist:  Michael Hansen – Senior Staff Scientist, Consumers Union

“We have strong concerns about giving the public only two weeks to review the data on the human and environmental safety of the GE salmon, contained in 255 pages of technical information. Given that FDA has had eleven years to review the application of AquaBounty for approval, we question the extremely brief period allowed for public review and input… that does not allow for the standard 60 to 90 days of public review.   Fourteen days are not sufficient to review this material in proper depth.”    -Excerpt from a Consumers Union letter to the FDA

Wild salmon advocateJonathan Rosenfield, PhD, Conservation Biologist and President of SalmonAID

“We all know there is a great appetite for salmon, but the solution is not to ‘farm’ genetically engineered versions to put more on our dinner tables; the solution is to work to bring our wild salmon populations back. The approval of these transgenic fish will only exacerbate the problems facing our wild fisheries.”     – From a coalition press release

Elected official:  Senator Mark Begich, D-Alaska

“Let’s call this genetically engineered fish for what it is: Frankenfish. Approval of genetically modified salmon, the first such hybrid to be considered for human consumption, is unprecedented, risky and a threat to the survival of wild species. Consideration of this gene-spliced salmon needs to move beyond the closed doors of the FDA and into the daylight where the public can weigh in whether this risky development is desired.”   – Press release from Senator Begich

Canada: Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network

“If the US approves the GE salmon it will open the door to GE fish and other dangerous GE animals in Canada and the rest of the world. This company is pushing to commercialize a GE fish that no one wants, and using PEI to do it.”    –From a press conference held yesterday by environmental and health groups in Canadian provice Prince Edward Island

Food safety advocates: Center for Food Safety and Food and Water Watch

One of the most serious issues regarding AquaBounty’s GE salmon is that FDA currently has no adequate means to assess the fish as a GE animal intended as a human food product. Rather than developing an appropriate evaluation method, FDA is currently proceeding to approve the GE fish through its process for reviewing a new animal drug.

“By choosing to use the animal drug process for reviewing this GE fish, basic health and safety data was kept a secret until just before the hearing on its approval,” said Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch. “It is outrageous to keep this vital information secret – consumers have a right to know what FDA is trying to allow into our food supply.”

– From the Center for Food Safety website

Want to weigh in before the FDA makes a decision to approve GE salmon?  Take action by making a quick call or sending an email.


If you like lists, check out Ten Reasons to Reject a Suspicious Fish

If you want to know more about the science behind GE salmon, Jill Richardson breaks it down in this piece on AlterNet.

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