Food & Water Watch, The Center for Food Safety, Friends of the Earth, and the CEO of Ben & Jerry’s yesterday rallied in front of the White House to demand that the Obama administration halt Food and Drug Administration approval of genetically modified salmon.
The FDA is expected to decide whether to approve the controversial salmon following a series of hearings scheduled for Sunday and Monday.
The fish have been developed over 20 years by AquaBounty, a Massachusetts-based company that has inserted a gene from a chinook salmon into Atlantic salmon, which are widely grown in fish farms. The AquAdvantage salmon are said to grow twice as fast as typical Atlantic salmon and to require approximately 10 percent less feed to achieve the same weight.
“It’s looking like the FDA will approve the salmon in the next few days unless consumers speak out to stop them,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, which is leading the charge to block approval. “Unfortunately, the FDA has kept the public in the dark about the decision-making process. The clock is ticking, which is why we’re calling on the Obama administration to halt the process before this science experiment ends up on our plates.”
Although AquaBounty says it will produce only sterile fish, its critics fear up to 5 percent of the GE salmon eggs could be fertile and that the fish could breed with wild populations if they escape. Opponents also question the length and depth of the studies the company conducted to assess potential human health risks that might be associated with consuming transgenic fish.
The coalition of groups contesting approval, which also includes The Organic Consumers Association, Food Democracy Now, and CREDO Action, have, as of yesterday, collected more than 160,000 consumer comments that they will submit to the FDA and President Obama, urging opposition to the genetically enhanced salmon.
AquaBounty said in a statement this week that it welcomes the opportunity to explain the company’s technology throughout the approval process. Ronald Stotish, president and CEO of AquaBounty, says the upcoming public meetings “will provide an opportunity for the public to understand how the application of our technology will enable the safe and sustainable production of high quality fish.
“We believe the economic and environmental benefits of our salmon will very effectively help to meet the demand for food from the growing world population,” said Stotish.
The first day of public meetings, scheduled for Sunday, is intended to be an orientation for Veterinary Medicine Advisory Committee members on the technology of producing GM animals and the FDA’s regulatory process for evaluating these animals. Monday, the FDA will present information on animal health, food safety, environmental concerns, and data supporting the claim that AquAdvantage salmon grow faster than conventionally bred Atlantic salmon.
Tuesday, the FDA meeting will focus on food labeling. In announcing the session, the FDA noted: “Although it will be FDA’s responsibility to determine if any special labeling is required in accordance with federal law, the hearing will offer the public an opportunity to comment on the application of the relevant food labeling principles to foods that might be made from the AquAdvantage Salmon.”
Photos courtesy of Eddie Gehman Kohan of Obama Foodorama.