Consumer Rights Not Included
Occasionally, someone makes a PR gaffe so blatantly off-target that it would be downright funny—if it weren’t such an important consumer right-to- know issue.
AquaBounty Technologies—a name that conjures up images of fresh, wholesome seafood swimming straight to your plate—is the company behind AquaAdvantage genetically engineered (GE) salmon, coming soon to an FDA approval process near you. We call them FrankenFish or Arnold Schwarzensalmon. Included in their very own website is a statement that breaks one of the most important rules of sensible business practice: make the customer feel important.
Straight from their online press room: “MYTH: These fish should be labeled. Consumers have a right to know what’s in their food.”
Are they suggesting that consumers’ don’t need to know whether the fish they’ve been eating is genetically engineered? Nope. They are flat out telling us: Consumer information not included. For context, they decided to be more specific: They assuage the concerns of industry by blithely observing, “FDA cannot legally obligate the producer [of a transgenic salmon] to label the product as anything other than Atlantic salmon.” (Update: In late August, the company removed this particular line from their website, presumably because of the fact that the FDA is now planning to hold hearings on this subject in just a few weeks. If enough consumers like you voice their concern, FDA may change their tune on labeling of GE fish. Stay tuned!)
Implication: What consumers don’t know won’t hurt them.
But who are they to decide? A 2008 study by Consumer Reports found that 95% of consumers agree that food products made from genetically engineered animals should be labeled as such. Is the opinion of the consumer not of any value to AquaBounty? This is quite a change from their opinion on consumer labeling from back in 2001.
If AquaBounty has a product of which they are proud, why wouldn’t they feel comfortable sharing the nutritional information, for example? Perhaps, the GE salmon label could say something like, “This fish is an exact replica of a real fish—we just changed its genetic make-up. Rest assured it’s nutritional value is the same as a real fish.” Or, they could just be up-front about it by labeling it, “Genetically Engineered,” and let consumers decide for themselves if it is a product worth buying.
Our take? Choose wild salmon over open water farmed. And, if you don’t like the idea of eating GE salmon without knowing it, make your voice heard now. Thank you, AquaBounty, for telling us, loud and clear, that you truly don’t have consumers’ best interests in mind.
Unfortunately, this topic is far from over for us. Stay tuned over the next few weeks as we discuss updates on the FDA process of approving (or rejecting, we hope) of genetically engineered salmon.
-Rich Bindell & Marie Logan