I grow increasingly wary as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration moves closer to approving for consumption the AquAdvantage Salmon—a fish genetically engineered by a Waltham, Mass.-based biotechnical company to grow twice as fast as a regular salmon. Here are my reasons:
The FDA says, “food from AquAdvantage Salmon … is as safe to eat as food from other Atlantic salmon.” Such a statement sounds vaguely familiar, doesn’t it? Remember the FDA’s 1992 GMO policy, which stated: "The agency is not aware of any information showing that foods derived by these new methods differ from other foods in any meaningful or uniform way." With studies linking GMOs to precancerous cell growth and damaged immune systems, we’ve certainly learned that’s not true. How long until cancer, decreased semen quality, [fill in the blank]is linked to eating this fish?
Should the AquAdvantage Salmon come to market, it will be hard to distinguish from non-GE salmon. Currently, the FDA can only require the labeling of GE foods if there’s a “material difference” between these foods and their non-engineered counterparts. Thus far, an acknowledgment of such differences has not materialized. The possible silver lining to this cloud is a public hearing scheduled for Sept. 21 in which the FDA will consider labeling the fish, however such a meeting presupposes the FDA’s approval of the salmon.
Consider that every year thousands of farmed salmon escape from open water pens and compete with wild salmon for resources. What’s to say the GE salmon wouldn’t do the same? “We believe any approval of GE salmon would represent a serious threat to the survival of native salmon populations, many of which have already suffered severe declines related to salmon farms and other man-made impacts,” Marianne Cufone, director of Food and Water Watch’s fish program said. And what if these GE salmon (though they’re supposed to be sterile) found a way to mate with the wild salmon? The environmental ramifications would be considerable not to mention the safety of our fish supply.