Finally, there's the economic side. "The FDA has said flat-out that they didn't consider any kind of economic impacts when reviewing this fish. That was a huge red flag," O'Neil says. Not only would these fish threaten the highly valuable Alaskan salmon industry, but producing them will send even more jobs overseas. AquaBounty plans to raise the salmon eggs in farms in Canada then ship those eggs to Panama, where they'll become full-grown fish. The American fishing industry would get no boost from this approval, and cheaper GE fish would undoubtedly harm sales of domestically sourced fish. "What the FDA is saying is that we want to ship jobs overseas, but make the American fishing industry shoulder the burden," he adds.
Hope in the House
When the FDA first opened its decision to approve GE salmon to public comment, some 200,000 people filed petitions saying they didn't want the agency to approve the fish or if the agency did approve it, the product should be labeled as genetically engineered. The agency has already said it won't require GE salmon to be labeled as such, and this most recent move towards approval shows that they essentially ignored the American public's wishes.
"This most recent development is spurring renewed interest in labeling bills," O'Neil says, referring to a variety of bills that have been introduced in both houses of Congress that would either require labeling for the fish, if approved, or to override the FDA's approval and ban it outright. "Most members of Congress don't think FDA has done good job reviewing the data." The nonprofit Consumers Union called the FDA out about their testing, after finding out that the FDA spent all of two weeks reviewing AquaBounty's safety data, which was collected from a grand total of six fish.
Many of those bills have started with senators and representatives—in both parties—from Alaska, a state that stands to lose big if their vital salmon industry is undercut by cheaper imports. "Alaska has strong pull that could bode well," O'Neil says. "Senators [Mark] Begich and [Lisa] Murkowski had been so vocal in opposition to this application." Last September, 40 senators and representatives from states across the country joined them in voicing their disapproval of the FDA's handling of the application. Even in this bitterly divided Congress, the House of Representatives was able to pass an amendment to a farm-spending bill that banned the FDA from using any funds towards approving GE salmon. Unfortunately, the ensuing budget battles stymied the bill and its amendment from moving much further.
What You Can Do
Visit the Center for Food Safety. At its website, GE-Fish.org, you can submit a letter to all your congressional representatives and to President Obama asking them to support two of the anti-GE bills floating through Congress.
Published on: October 12, 2011
Updated on: October 12, 2011