On Thursday November 19, 2015 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ignored major concerns voiced by a wide range of environmental, consumer advocacy, scientific and other organizations, and over 2 million public comments (the most the agency has ever received on a topic) to approve the first ever genetically modified (GM) animal for human consumption – a reportedly “fast growing” salmon.
RFC’s Executive Director, Marianne Cufone, released a statement about the approval.
Some of the major concerns with the salmon are that:
- There are no meaningful long-term studies done on health effects from eating this fish, or the real risks involved if these salmon were to escape into the wild;
- The main stated reason for approval is to strengthen farmed fish’s economic viability — but the FDA has not done due diligence in exploring alternative options;
- While the FDA echoes the company’s contention that the engineered fish are sterile, and thus supposedly unable to reproduce, 100 percent sterility is highly unlikely. There is still risk the fish could unintentionally end up in the wild and intermix with wild salmon; these risks have not been well evaluated;
- The salmon contains compounds that may cause increased allergic reactions;
- FDA failed to adequately explore safer methods for fish production. For example, aquaponics – raising fish in tanks connected to plant grow beds in a closed-loop recirculating system – can naturally achieve fast growth rates for fish, making genetic modification to artificially enhance growth unnecessary. These systems are also space, energy and water efficient – an all around win for our planet; and
- The company that created and will sell the salmon supplied the data FDA used to evaluate the fish’s safety. That is in no way objective or rigorous.
Surprisingly, FDA also decided that the new salmon will not be labeled as GM in stores because the agency says ‘ it is nutritionally equivalent to conventional farm-raised Atlantic salmon’. This is problematic for consumers – they deserve to know that the fish they may be buying and eating is genetically modified, so they can make informed decisions.
Over 9,000 stores owned by 60 chains across the nation have already rejected genetically engineered salmon, including Kroger, Target, Aldi, Trader Joe’s and others. Seventy-five percent of respondents to a New York Times poll said they would not eat genetically engineered salmon, and 1.8 million people have sent letters to the FDA opposing approval of the so-called “frankenfish.”
With this first approval of a GM animal for human consumption, there is widespread concerns that other GM animals will be approved soon.