FDA Isn’t Fishing for Feedback on GE Salmon
GE Salmon: Consumers Need to Weigh in Now!
The race is over. The fight is on. FDA announced last week that they will hold public hearings on the approval of genetically engineered (GE) salmon for consumers’ tables. If they approve GE salmon, it would be the first transgenic animal approved for human consumption in the U.S. The hearings will take place September 19, 20 and 21, which doesn’t leave much time to pose critical questions. Even though many consumers express concern over health and environmental risks that might be associated with GE salmon, FDA is trying to quickly approve it. In response to this important consumer issue, Food & Water Watch will host a series of blogs dedicated to this topic, and we will break down each concern we have with every posting. The following post is the first in this series.
We have been closely following this process and we are working with a coalition of organizations to contest GE salmon, as well as inform the public about why the FDA should discontinue its approval process of AquaBounty’s AquaAdvantage® GE salmon. We don’t need genetically engineered fish and meat. We need safe and wholesome food with strong consumer safeguards. We hope you tune in frequently for updates on this very important issue. We welcome your comments, so please feel free to share them with our community. Stay tuned! -Rich Bindell
FDA Isn’t Fishing for Feedback on GE Salmon
Last week, the same government agency that brought us such hits as, “Don’t Eat Those 550 Million Eggs,” “You Can’t Be My Peanut,” and “Look Out for That Spinach,” has announced their plan regarding the approval process for genetically engineered salmon. After fifteen years of ultra-double-super-secret lab work on GE salmon by AquaBounty, FDA is rushing to get the first genetically engineered animal approved for human consumption. They’ve announced public hearings to discuss the approval process — which we hope to delay to give the public a chance to ask critical questions — on Sept. 19 and 20. In addition to this mad dash to move forward quickly and approve the mutant fish for your plate, they are treating it like an animal drug.
In a conference call to announce the hearings, officials stated: “FDA regulates GE animals under the new animal drug provision of the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act because the recombinant DNA construct that is intended to change the fish meets the definition of a drug.” The recombinant DNA construct, which they define as a drug, is what is added to the genes of the salmon to make them grow faster. Instead of treating GE salmon as food, the FDA is treating it like an animal drug because the resulting effect of quick growth—achieved here by genetic mutation—is similar to what a drug might do… to animals.
FDA claims that this process “will be one of the most open and transparent reviews of an FDA regulated product. There will be many opportunities for the public to provide input to the agency…” But, acquiring information about GE salmon has been challenging to this point. For the past 15 years, FDA has been tight-lipped about GE salmon. While they claim they are being transparent, the process for evaluation and testing of GE is one humongous question mark. In fact, FDA hasn’t done any of their own studies; they have been reliant on AquaBounty for data, and they certainly aren’t leaving much room for independent feedback. As Sarah Parsons of Sustainable Food explains, FDA just doesn’t have enough information.
Since FDA doesn’t have the resources to commission any independent studies, and since we won’t have any “results” to review until just days before the first hearing, how will we the right questions be raised? FDA has repeatedly folded under the pressure of big industry, and they’ve failed us before by approving drugs that were eventually found to be dangerous, like Rofecoxib, which was used in Vioxx and other brands. And this time, the “drug” (GE salmon), isn’t a cure or treatment for anything; it’s supposed to be food for humans.
Just keep these things in mind when FDA claims that this fish is smart science, and that it’s exactly the same as a real fish. If it were, it wouldn’t need FDA approval before we serve it to our families. And, if this fish really is the same as a real fish, then it wouldn’t be treated as a drug. FDA wants to rush this process along—get it into the marketplace first, and ask questions later. Not so fast, FDA, we have LOTS of questions and we want to ask them NOW. Let’s take action now, before FDA takes another step.