(NaturalHealth365) Proponents of GMOs prefer that you call it “genetically modified salmon.” Opponents of GMOs – including natural health advocates, organic food growers, animal welfare groups, environmentalists, commercial fishermen, restaurateurs and chefs – have settled on a name of their own: “Frankenfish.”
But, by whatever name you call it, AquAdvantage salmon may soon be available in some stores. The FDA, scheduled to finalize its assessment of the genetically modified fish, may be nearing a ruling – almost two decades after AquaBounty Technologies, the developer of the fish, initially sought approval in 1996.
The FDA is facing a firestorm of protest over GM salmon
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has already made preliminary findings on GM fish, announcing in December, 2012 that approval of the application would not have a significant impact on the US environment. The agency called AquAdvantage salmon “indistinguishable” from conventionally farmed salmon, and claimed that it is equally safe to eat.
More than 300 agencies, including the Center for Food Safety, have filed statements opposing approval, and 40 members of Congress have called for more rigorous review of the product. During the public comment portion of the proceedings, at least 400,000 people demanded that approval be denied.
And, if FDA approval is granted, a growing number of supermarkets – more than 60 – have announced that they will refuse to sell the GM salmon. The revolt began with select companies such as Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and Aldi’s, and has recently grown to include larger corporations such as Target, Kroger and Safeway. Significantly, retail giant Wal-Mart has refused to comment.
Experts say that GM salmon could decimate the wild salmon population
A primary concern of GM fish foes is accidental escape: if GM salmon escape containment and mingle with native salmon, their larger size would give them an unfair advantage in competing for food. Although the fish are bred to be sterile, the FDA itself concedes that up to 5 percent of GM fish are actually fertile.
According to a study published in Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences, the accidental release of as few as 60 genetically modified salmon into a wild population of 60,000 would cause the demise of the native fish – a devastating scenario. In addition, opponents of GM salmon fear that safety concerns have not been fully addressed, and say that research on the fish has been flawed and incomplete.
Educated consumers are the most opposed to GM salmon
The Non-GMO Report cites a 2010 poll revealing that 81 percent of restaurant chefs surveyed oppose genetically altered food. And, perhaps more tellingly, a 2010 Washington Post poll showed that 79 percent of consumers say they won’t eat GM fish.
What, exactly, is genetically modified salmon?
To create the AquAdvantage salmon, developers introduced a growth gene from a Chinook salmon and a “promoter” gene from another fish, the eelpout. This genetic manipulation spurs production of growth hormone, causing the salmon to grow about twice as fast as conventional salmon.
Although 75 percent of the food on supermarket shelves and in restaurants contains some GMO ingredients – and the majority of corn and soybean crops are now GMO – this would be the first genetically engineered animal to be approved for human consumption.
Advocates claim that the fish can be grown by land-based farming, lowering transportation costs and resulting in cheaper production. They assert that In addition to benefiting the environment, the use of GM fish will allow more people to take advantage of fish as a healthy alternative to red meat and a rich source of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. Supporters of GM fish say they would also ease pressure on wild fisheries.
Warning: GM fish do not have to be identified by label
AquaBounty CEO Ron Stotish has publicly stated that once consumers see, touch and taste the fish, they will “wonder what all the fuss was about.” The statement is not only condescending but illogical – unless laws are passed that require GMO foods to be labeled, consumers will have no way of knowing exactly what they are seeing, touching and tasting.
Instead, they will be forced to participate in a sort of perverse shell game, perpetrated by the biotech companies and food retailers who choose to sell GMO fish: which fish on the shelf is GM? It’s a guessing game: some of it, all of it or none of it?
If “Frankenfish” does obtain FDA approval – and you want to avoid meeting it in the seafood aisle – opt for fish labeled USDA Organic; the use of GMOs is not permitted in foods labeled in this fashion. As usual, let the buyer beware.