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Don’t Put a Fork in It

Wenonah Hauter
Other Words / News Report
Published: Wednesday 30 January 2013
Despite consumer opposition, the FDA is one step away from approving genetically engineered salmon.
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While most Americans were enjoying the holiday season or stressing out over the nation’s imminent leap off the so-called fiscal cliff, the Food and Drug Administration delivered some big news as quietly as possible.

On Dec. 21, the agency announced that AquaBounty’s genetically engineered salmon had cleared the final hurdle before clinching FDA approval.

Despite insufficient testing and widespread consumer opposition, AquaBounty’s food experiment is dangerously close to becoming the first genetically engineered animal produced for human consumption. Yes, a newfangled fish may soon land on a dinner plate near you.

For those who have been following this news for the past several years, the timing of the FDA’s release of its draft environmental assessment — the Friday before Christmas — was no surprise. But the news was still frightening: The FDA may give this transgenic animal the green light under a new approval process that treats the fish as an “animal drug.”

Prefer your salmon without those eel genes spliced into its DNA? Pay close attention because this frankenfish may hit the market without any sort of label.

It seems that AquaBounty and the FDA don’t believe consumers deserve the right to know whether the fish we eat is genetically engineered. Those who have demanded labeling for genetically engineered food will be unable to identify this transgenic salmon from standard farm-raised varieties.

Not only does this ignore our fundamental right to know what we are putting on our plates, it’s also a bad business decision. It’s entirely possible that many Americans will avoid purchasing any salmon for fear it is genetically engineered.

AquaBounty, the biotech company responsible for bringing us this fishy salmon, used its own data to convince the FDA that it is safe to eat. But AquaBounty’s profits are inextricably linked to approval of this salmon. It’s outrageous that the FDA would take AquaBounty’s word over that of dozens of lawmakers and scientists, including experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Fish and Wildlife Service, not to mention thousands of concerned consumers.

The FDA has the difficult task of protecting consumer safety, but it’s hard to take it seriously when it comes to genetically engineered salmon. So far, they’ve failed to conduct the appropriate studies to determine if the fish is safe to eat. Independent scientists have skewered the FDA’s process, noting that serious environmental concerns have not been examined while food safety issues related to hormone levels and allergies have been glossed over.

Even AquaBounty’s claim of faster growth rates is suspect. The company hasn’t yet demonstrated that its transgenic salmon can grow faster than salmon without its new traits. And that’s the whole reason they say it should be approved. SalmoBreed AS, a Norwegian company specializing in the selective breeding of Atlantic salmon, has directly challenged AquaBounty on this point.

By releasing an environmental assessment instead of a more thorough environmental impact statement, the FDA has failed to fully consider the threat this controversial new fish could pose to wild fish populations.

While the FDA is close to approving genetically engineered salmon for consumers, Congress can still keep them from unleashing this dangerous experiment. Consumers don’t have million-dollar accounts with K Street lobbyists, but we do have a powerful voice of opposition, one that has effectively put the brakes on this untested laboratory experiment for more than two years. Members of Congress are speaking out against this controversial fish. Let your elected officials know you don’t want this frankenfish on your plate. Visit to find out how.

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ABOUT Wenonah Hauter

Wenonah Hauter is the Executive Director of Food & Water Watch. She has worked extensively on energy, food, water and environmental issues at the national, state and local level. Experienced in developing policy positions and legislative strategies, she is also a skilled and accomplished organizer, having lobbied and developed grassroots field strategy and action plans. From 1997 to 2005 she served as Director of Public Citizen‚ Energy and Environment Program, which focused on water, food, and energy policy. From 1996 to 1997, she was environmental policy director for Citizen Action, where she worked with the organization’s 30 state-based groups. From 1989 to 1995 she was at the Union of Concerned Scientists where as a senior organizer, she coordinated broad-based, grassroots sustainable energy campaigns in several states. She has an M.S. in Applied Anthropology from the University of Maryland.

It is unfortunate that

It is unfortunate that emotional and uninformed comments are the only ones posted. Transgenic animals and fish have been around for two decades and there is not a shred of evidence or even a hint that they present any danger to either people or the environment. Using a normal growth hormone gene to increase fish size can safely enhance food production and may well help feed millions of people more economically than at present. Please look up the details and educate yourselves as to the many advantages transgenic animals and fish may have.

The fish- farm folks ought to

The fish- farm folks ought to be protesting this loud and clear. Why? 'Cause it appears --unless GMO food labeling is finally required--that the only way to avoid eating GMA salmon is to avoid ALL farm-raised salmon. Right?

Right. In fact, I will


In fact, I will avoid wild salmon as well.

Since when governments were

Since when governments were concerned about the 99% without immanent trouble from the public? It seems governments are organized by the 1% to do their dirty work using the good cop/bad cop method between the two groups which are ultimately the same people wearing different hats. The only time they respond to the 99% is when they need them for wars, taking their money for junk they sell them, and their pleasure. It is a dog eat dog world out there and as George Carlin says, the 99% is the underdog.... Don't expect much from the government outside of policing, wars, and surveillance. Everything is organized around money flow with the 1% in the center.

Boris Badenov's picture

Will it cure Homosexuality? I

Will it cure Homosexuality?
I mean it's GMO isn't it.

Boris Badenov's picture

Will it cure Homosexuality? I

Will it cure Homosexuality?
I mean it's GMO isn't it. Why do we have GMO foods if it doesn't combat cancer, extend life, reduce illnesses, help Alzheimer's Patients etc...

don't you mean

don't you mean homasexuallity??? a word kinda like nucular

Well Boris..... We have GMO

Well Boris..... We have GMO foods because they can be patented, and patent holders can extract a profit from their holding. They can also make life miserable for everyone they come into contact with.

I would think by this point you would understand that the health and welfare of the consuming public really has nothing to do with decision making in DC.

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