The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could soon approve genetically engineered (GE) salmon, the first "transgenic" animal allowed to enter our food supply … but not the last.
On February 13, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously passed a resolution against it and now Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Marsh Supermarkets, Aldi and other food retailers announced they won’t sell it if it’s approved.
Since GMOs are not labeled in the US, you could buy this salmon (affectionately dubbed "Frankenfish") without knowing it (also in restaurants).
The salmon is "made" by the company, AquaBounty Technologies, based in Massachusetts. By placing a growth hormone gene from Pacific salmon and a genetic switch from ocean pout into farmed Atlantic salmon, they have created "AquAdvantage Salmon," which grows twice as fast as other farmed salmon.
The genetic switch from the ocean pout keeps the transplanted gene from Chinook salmon continuously active, thus leading to faster growth.
That means GE salmon can get to market sooner and they can make more money, faster. But what’s the advantage to people that eat it?
"This dangerous lab experiment is all hype and full of downsides to consumers, salmon growers and the environment," says Food & Water Watch.
At least 35 other species of GE fish are under development. This FDA decision will set a precedent for other GE fish and animals (including cows, chickens and pigs) to enter the global food market, says the Campaign for Genetically Engineered-Free Seafood.
In December, the FDA said GE fish would have "no significant impact" on the environment and would be as safe to eat as "real" salmon. They are accepting public comments on these findings until April 26.
The FDA doesn’t even do its own testing of genetically engineered animals: it relies on information provided by the company that wants approval. And because GE salmon are being considered as a new animal drug, the process isn’t focused on what happens to people who eat genetically engineered animals. So on top of the health concerns posed by raising salmon in crowded factory fish farms that rely on antibiotics and other chemicals, the FDA could be adding the unknown risks of GE salmon to the mix.
"We won’t sell genetically engineered fish because we don’t believe it is sustainable or healthy," says Trudy Bialic from PCC Natural Markets in Washington State. "It is troubling that the FDA is recommending approval of AquaBounty’s salmon as a ‘new animal drug,’ subjecting these engineered creatures to less rigorous safety standards than food additives (for humans). That’s not a credible safety assessment."
"Simply put, this genetically engineered fish is unnecessary and is a problem masquerading as a solution," says Heather Whitehead, online campaigns director at Center for Food Safety.
In 2011, bipartisan legislation was introduced to prevent the Obama Administration from fast-tracking approval of GE salmon. It didn’t get far.
The US is the world’s largest market for GMO foods because labeling isn’t required. GMO foods are rarely found in the 60 countries that require labeling.
Last week, Whole Foods said all products with GMOs will be labeled in its stores by 2018. Organizers in 30 states are working on initiatives to require GMO labels.
Learn more about GE fish: