Just as Monsanto announces that it has given up trying to spread genetically modified seeds and plants throughout Europe (which is a huge win for opponents of genetic engineering), along comes another exciting victory.
Target, along with many other big supermarket chains, has pledged not to stock genetically engineered (GE) salmon in its stores.
A total of 59 retailers have announced that they will not stock GE fish. Along with Target come H-E-B chain (315 stores in Texas), Giant Eagle (387 stores in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and Maryland) and Meijer (200 stores in the Rust Belt).
Earlier this year several other major retailers, including Whole Foods, Trader Joes and Aldi, as well as some smaller grocery sellers, promised that no GE salmon would be sold in their stores. That makes a whopping total of 4,662 stores around the U.S.
Why Was Frankenfish Created?
AquaBounty Technologies, a Massachusetts-based biotech company, created the “AquAdvantage” salmon by injecting a gene from an ocean pout fish (a type of eel) along with a growth hormone gene from the Chinook Pacific salmon, into a fertilized Atlantic salmon egg. These two extra genes make the fish grow twice as fast as normal Atlantic salmon, cutting the time to reach market weight almost in half. It also creates a fish that produces growth hormone year round, not just in warm weather.
This could mean cost savings for fish farmers, leading to higher profits for the salmon farming industry.
No big surprise here: it’s all about making twice as much money, in half the time.
Oh, and the fish is also abnormally large, about twice the size of its non-engineered cousin.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first announced that it was considering the approval of a GE salmon in August 2010. April 26, 2013, marked the close of a 60-day comment period on a revised draft environmental assessment for the GE fish. By that time over 1.8 million people had sent comments vehemently expressing their disapproval.
In spite of this outpouring of opposition, the FDA is expected to approve the first-ever GE animal permitted to enter the U.S. food supply.
What Could Go Wrong?
Most Americans say they won’t eat GE fish and 91 percent want the FDA to disallow it on the market.
Since these fish are significantly altered from the non-genetically modified salmon, the concern is that there could be health problems associated with eating it.
But the FDA doesn’t care: GE foods have never been safety tested by the FDA, thanks to a 20-year-old policy that says it’s up to the biotech companies to determine the safety of GE foods. Right – they create these foods and conduct tests to prove they are safe. Now we all feel better, I’m sure.
And The Daily Mail adds:
Opponents of the ‘Frankenfish’ technology warn it could escape and interbreed with wild fish, undermining the genetics of the already-endangered Atlantic salmon – known as the ‘king of fishes’.
They also argue that commercial production of the salmon could be beginning of concerted efforts to concoct other GM animals for human consumption, raising concerns about animal welfare and human health.
FDA Refuses To Label GE Foods
If the FDA isn’t going to test GE foods for safety, at least they could require labeling, allowing consumers to avoid them if they want. But so far, the FDA has rejected labeling under the controversial argument that GE foods are “substantially equivalent” to their non-genetically engineered counterparts.
So how can consumers choose not to eat GE salmon if it isn’t even labeled? We’ll just have to trust those 59 supermarket chains that have announced they will not stock this scary product.
Target and the other retailers who pledged to not sell GE salmon obviously took their consumer’s wishes into consideration when making this decision. If you believe we must continue to speak up and be heard on this issue, please sign our petition calling on Congress to label all genetically engineered food.
Photo Credit: thinkstock
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