Right now President Obama and bureaucrats at the Food and Drug Administration are preparing to unleash genetically engineered salmon on the market. After years of controversial regulatory review, this past week the Obama administration cleared a final hurdle for AquaBounty’s GMO salmon to be approved at any moment.
On Friday, December 21st, 2012, FDA bureaucrats declared that AquaBounty’s GMO AquaAdvantage® salmon poses no “significant” risk to the environment. This recent FDA decision comes on top of the agency’s 2010 declaration that the GMO salmon were safe for humans to eat, despite no independent long-term studies. Once again, the FDA is putting corporate science over public health.
If approved, AquaBounty’s GMO salmon would be the first genetically engineered animal to be sold for human consumption and could appear in restaurants and grocery stores as early 2013.
Right now there is an open 60-day public comment period at the FDA before any approval can move forward and we need your help today to get as many comments as possible.
Already biotech cheerleaders are hailing the FDA’s recent announcement as a first of many new approvals to come, which means that more genetically engineered, transgenic animals could be approved in the near future.
In case you haven’t heard, the AquaBounty GMO salmon has been genetically engineered in laboratories to allegedly grow twice as fast as wild salmon, which the Massachusetts-based company hopes its patented mutant fish will replace as a new staple at sushi bars, seafood restaurants and supermarkets across America.
Straight from the pages of a science fiction novel, AquaBounty has inserted the genes of a Chinook salmon growth hormone and an “on-off” switch from the eelpout, into the eggs of Atlantic salmon, to make the GMO salmon grow faster than wild or farmed salmon.
Despite the company’s claims, critics remain skeptical that genetically engineered fish has any real benefits.
Once Again the FDA Ignores Serious Risks and Environmental Concerns
While AquaBounty claims its GMO salmon will only be raised in indoor, land-based facilities, environmentalists have real concerns if any accident were to take place. Scientific studies show that the release of just 60 GMO salmon could eradicate wild Atlantic salmon populations of 60,000 fish in less than 40 fish generations.
In an effort to overcome this, AquaBounty has built egg production facilities on Prince Edward Island in Canada and will then ship them to an indoor facility in Panama where they will be grown out. Once the GMO salmon are grown to maturity, they will be sold unlabeled in U.S. markets, if the Obama administration gets its way.
It is due to AquaBounty’s promise to only raise the GMO salmon in indoor, land-based pens that the Obama FDA has now given the mutant fish a thumbs up with its recently published Environmental Assessment (EA), claiming that the GMO salmon poses “no significant impact” on the environment.
In addition to land-based pens, AquaBounty claims it will only raise “sterile females”, but this is factually false since tests show that up to 5% of the GMO salmon are able to reproduce.
At the same time, leaked internal emails from the U.S. Department of Interior’s Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) reveal that the governments own scientists are dubious about the FDA’s own assessment.
In an email to a coworker, FWS geneticist Denise Hawkins wrote in 2010:
"I also agree ... that using [genetically sterile] fish is not foolproof. Maybe [the FDA] should watch Jurassic Park."
In addition, Hawkins criticized the FDA’s fantastical assessment of the ability of these GMO salmon to survive outside of the intended indoor pens, saying, “There is no data to support the claims of low survival in the event of escape, which... is a big concern.”
How will GMO salmon impact human health?
Because no independent, long-term scientific studies of AquaBounty’s patented salmon have been conducted, the human health impacts of GMO salmon are not currently known. Shockingly, the FDA is relying on scant scientific documents provided by AquaBounty itself. In fact, the FDA’s own assessment AquaBounty’s studies to determine whether GMO salmon are safe for human consumption states that the studies contain “technical flaws” and provide “insufficient data”.
For two of the studies submitted, AquaBounty used sample sizes so small that they have no scientific credibility, with only 12 fish tested for one study, while another study on possible allergic reactions in humans involved only 6 fish! Despite this scant evidence, the FDA is currently on the verge of approving the company's GMO salmon.
Serious questions remain about eating fish engineered to grow faster and how genetically manipulated traits can impact human health, especially that of our most vulnerable populations such as pregnant mothers and children.
Please share this alert with friends you know who may be concerned, we need all the comments we can get and every voice counts!
Thanks for participating in food democracy,
Dave, Lisa and the Food Democracy Now! team
1. “White House Reverses Itself, Lifts Political Block on FDA Approval of GMO Salmon”, Forbes, 12/21/2012
2. “Genetically Engineered Salmon: Environmental Documents, AquAdvantage Salmon Preliminary Finding of No Significant Impact” Food and Drug Administration (FDA), FDA.gov
3. "GE Animals Regulated Under New Animal Drug Provisions", FDA.gov website, FDA Releases Final Guidance on Genetically Engineered Animals, January 15, 2009.
4. “Aqua Bounty Biotech Salmon OK to Eat-FDA Staff,” Reuters, September 3, 2010.
5. "Modified Salmon is Safe, FDA Says", The New York Times, September 3, 2010
6. “Mutant Salmon Coming to a Kitchen Table Near You”, Fast Company, July 12, 2010