Technically, consumers and voters have 5 weeks to submit comments to the FDA before it approves genetically engineered salmon once and for all. Americans are just about at the midway point of the 60 day waiting period before the agency renders its decision. After that, shoppers will begin buying GE salmon at their local grocery store and probably won’t even know it. But one organization, Food and Water Watch, is making one final stand to stop it.
The anticipated approval of genetically modified salmon is historic for a number of reasons. But none more so that the fact that this would create the first ever laboratory created, genetically altered animal approved to be eaten by human beings. Until now, all GM foods have been plants like corn and soybeans.
Call for assistance
In an email to supporters, Food and Water Watch’s Maria Tchijov calls on consumers to contact the FDA and let them know they do not want genetically altered salmon on their family’s dinner plate. Taking issue with the suspicious timing of the FDA’s actions in pushing GE salmon through the approval process, Tchijov uses words like ‘sneaky’, ‘outrageous’ and ‘shoddy’ to describe the process.
“When it comes to being sneaky, the Food and Drug Administration takes the cake, or in this case, salmon,” Maria Tchijov of Food and Water Watch explains, “Just as 2012 was wrapping up, the FDA decided to slip through a shoddy environmental assessment report supporting genetically engineered salmon, which is the last step before approving its sale across the country.”
Tchijov goes on to detail the dire circumstances surrounding her group’s last minute appeal. “We have until February 25 to submit comments to the FDA asking them to stop their mad dash to put GE salmon in our grocery stores and to reject this frankenfish!”
FDA and AquaBounty
According to Food and Water Watch’s Maria Tchijov, “AquaBounty, the biotech company responsible for bringing us GE salmon, used its own data to convince the FDA that this fish is safe to eat. Of course they think it’s safe – their profits are inextricably linked to its approval. That’s why it’s so outrageous that the FDA would take AquaBounty’s word over that of dozens of legislators and scientists, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, not to mention hundreds of thousands of concerned consumers. By submitting a comment to the FDA today, you are reminding them that Americans don’t want GE salmon on their plates.”
Tim Schwab, also from Food and Water Watch, gives the recent history of genetically altered salmon and the FDA’s approval process. He tells how in 2010, the FDA released hundreds of pages of favorable risk assessments and announced an open meeting to discuss the details in Rockville, Maryland only a few days later. As Schwab explains, “The extremely short timeline seemed designed to limit public participation and independent criticisms of the FDA’s scientific work, as few people could drop everything and rush to Maryland.”
2012 Christmas surprise
Food and Water Watch’s Tim Schwab goes on to detail the latest questionable action by the FDA. “On the Friday before Christmas 2012, the agency that protects 80 percent of our food supply gave us an encore performance,” he says, “On a day when few people are at work and many are making plans for extended vacations, the FDA issued its environmental assessment, a 160-page document that basically regurgitates verbatim the agency’s weak 2010 assessment. This moves AquaBounty’s GE salmon within one step of full approval.”
The consumer watchdog group insists that the FDA’s assessment is important not for what it includes, but for what it doesn’t include. He accuses government officials of ignoring “flawed science, limited data, examples of bias and lingering safety concerns.” Schwab explains, “The agency only looked at a handful of fish, which exhibited 50 percent higher rates of allergenicity and 40 percent higher rates of growth hormone linked to cancer in humans.”
While most parties involved are aware that AquaBounty already has genetically altered salmon farms in Panama and Canada, many aren’t aware of the disasters each facility has befallen recently. And that’s probably not a coincidence.
As the consumer advocate explains, “AquaBounty’s grow-out facility in Panama experienced a devastating storm in 2008, which led the company to report to their shareholders that GE salmon were lost.” The company released conflicting versions of the calamity, but the FDA never questioned the accounts. Even more ominous, the corporation’s Canadian facility, “was being ravaged by a deadly disease called infectious salmon anemia virus.” Tim Schwab goes on to say, “How it got into AquaBounty’s facilities is a question that, conveniently, remains unasked and unanswered by the FDA. What we do know is that AquaBounty began voluntarily killing most of its broodstock.”
How to get involved
Food and Water Watch is asking all consumers to contact the FDA, as well as Congress, to voice opposition to the final approval of genetically modified salmon. The group has created an automated online form where people can submit their comments directly to the FDA. Click here to go to the form.
For more information on genetically modified salmon, read today’s Food and Water Watch report, ‘What the FDA isn’t Telling Us about GE Salmon’.
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