By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
It is a truly blasphemous concept to a pescetarian–genetically modified, farm raised salmon. But, the United States Food and Drug Administration voted Thursday to allow for the marketing, and just as worrisome, the exemption from food labeling as such, of genetically altered fish that reportedly grows twice as fast as natural salmon. It once again shows how consumers cannot rely on politicians and the U.S. Government for informed choices on what we eat.
The producer of the fish, AquaBounty Technologies, received clearance to manufacture their AquAdvantage(R) Salmon after the FDA “determined that they have met the regulatory requirements for approval, including that food from the fish is safe to eat,” according to Bernadette Dunham director of the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine. This culminates in a two decade effort for the company to gain approval to sell the fish to producers.
AquAdvantage is the first genetically modified animal to win approval from the FDA to sell to consumers. It is now up to these consumers to do their homework to determine if food products contain frankenfish, since labeling is not required. In a conference call to reporters, the FDA advised consumers wishing to avoid GMO fish will need to purchase Wild-Caught since the term Farm Raised will encompass natural and altered genome types.
Around December of 2013, Safeway and Kroger vowed they would not sell genetically modified salmon in their stores citing concerns of their customers. This was followed by Trader-Joe’s. Indeed this also shows potential for more grocers listening to consumers who overwhelmingly support mandatory GMO labeling and are increasingly likely to avoid such foods.
“Consumers deserve to know what type of food they’re buying –- and an overwhelming majority has told us that they want genetically modified food labeled in poll after poll,” said Michael Hansen, senior scientist with Consumers Union, in a statement. “The decision to not require a GE label for this product takes away the consumer’s ability to make a truly informed choice.”
In July, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would preempt the right of states to mandate GMO labeling or to regulate genetically altered “food”. The Senate has not taken up drafting legislation for this.
AquaBounty Chief Executive Officer Ronald Stotish stated,
“AquAdvantage Salmon is a game-changer that brings healthy and nutritious food to consumers in an environmentally responsible manner without damaging the ocean and other marine habitats.”
I have to disagree. The company claims that its product is altered so that if it somehow enters the wild, it will not breed due to creating sterile, female only fish. There are countless stories in the world where invasive species caused disruption in local ecosystems. Both the manufacturer of the fish, and the FDA itself proffer AquAdvantage will only be grown within inland tanks to prevent contamination of natural fishing areas. That is going to be more of a empty promise because it is likely going to be difficult to control every entity that takes possession of the fish and resorts to hazardous manufacturing controls to save costs. Plus, if their product was so safe why would it be necessary to take up such measures to prevent the salmon from entering the wild?
AquAdvantage contains alterations to a Pacific Chinook Salmon genome that causes the fish to create a growth hormone at twice the rate of a natural fish. A concern is that if released into the wild it could crowd out natural fish and lead to imbalances in not only salmon species but other organisms will be both directly and indirectly affected. Moreover, once the box has been opened to genetically altered animals just about any other trait can be exploited or turned off which could lead to a race to the bottom for cost control that can introduce other forms of degradation of food quality and health. With regard to RoundUp Ready plant crops, Monsanto claims its GMO product is safe for consumption. Yet, the alteration allows for the use of a scorched-earth herbicide to be administered to the crops, a substance that studies are showing can lead to various pathologies in humans. We need to ask ourselves what the true cost of our food is. Cheaper is not always better.
By Darren Smith
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