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September 16th, 2010

The FDA & Genetically Engineered Salmon

This is an old story, but it needs mention every couple of weeks. The FDA is failing the U.S. consumer badly. Not only does it continue to approve genetically engineered foods for public consumption, without fully understanding the risks these foods might wreck on public health and the environment, it protects the producers of these foods by failing to require genetically engineered products be labeled as such.

According to The Good Human, if you eat processed foods, genetically engineered products are probably entering your body every day:

“Unbeknownst to most Americans, a majority of the processed foods available in grocery stores today are derived from genetically modified (GM) sources—whereby genes have been taken from one species and insert into another to obtain specific traits or characteristics.”

So, how do you know whether your favorite instant potatoes contains GM product? You absolutely don’t.

“…the European Union and dozens of other regions around the world, including Australia and Japan, now require food producers to label GM products clearly so consumers can decide for themselves whether or not to take the risk. Neither the U.S. nor Canada has any such requirements.”

Soon after GM products began being labeled in the EU they all but disappeared from the shelves, because consumers wouldn’t buy them. However, Monsanto and other GM producers have convinced the FDA that consumers only quit buying GM foods out of unfounded fears that aren’t based on scientific fact.

The industry’s position is not only self-serving hogwash, it misses the point by a mile. It doesn’t matter whether consumers choice to not purchase frankenfoods is rational or not. It’s their decision to make, and they have the right to know what they’re purchasing and putting into their bodies.

Up until now, all GM products have been farm crops. That’s soon to change however, as the FDA appears to be on the verge of approving the first GM animal food:

“On Sept. 3, a scientific panel of experts that advises the FDA paved the way for the approval of genetically modified salmon, calling it ‘as safe as food from conventional Atlantic salmon.’

“The FDA’s Veterinary Medicine Advisory Committee went on to say that the fish — AquAdvantage Salmon developed by Waltham, Mass.-based AquaBounty Technologies — contained the same amount of nutrients and had ‘no biologically relevant differences’ from ordinary farmed Atlantic salmon. The FDA is scheduled to hold public hearings on the issue from Sept. 19 to 21.”

Needless to say, there’s a whole boatload of folks that disagree, like Food&Water Watch, who together with a coalition of consumer, environmental and animal welfare groups sent a letter on September 9 to the FDA, demanding an end to the approval process:

“‘The FDA has purposefully kept critical information from the public surrounding what could soon become the first genetically engineered food animal to hit the market,’ said Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food&Water Watch. ‘Consumers have a right to know that the FDA lacks the means to assess this fish as a genetically engineered animal intended for human consumption. If this product was approved, the resulting consumer health impact could be disastrous.'”

The approval of GM salmon also poses a serious environmental risk:

“Every year millions of Atlantic salmon, grown now in Europe, Maine, British Columbia and Chile, escape from open-water net pens, outcompeting wild populations for resources and straining ecosystems. ‘We believe any approval of GE salmon would represent a serious threat to the survival of native salmon populations, many of which have already suffered severe declines related to salmon farms and other man-made impacts,’ said Marianne Cufone, director of Food & Water Watch’s fish program.

“The groups believe that if the FDA opens this door, GE fish will likely join the millions of salmon that currently escape from open ocean pens operated by aquaculture coporations every year. Fish farms always have a certain amount of fish escape, through human error, weather, and attacks by sea lions and other predators that damage the pens.”

If you care about public health and the environment, I urge you to contact your representative in Washington. Say, “No on GM salmon. Yes on GM labeling.”

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