Washington, D.C.—Food & Water Watch joined nearly 1.5 million consumers last Friday in submitting federal comments to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on GE salmon. In their public comment to the FDA, Food & Water Watch cited dozens of inadequacies in the agency’s risk assessment, highlighting the FDA’s failure to meaningfully examine growth rates of GE salmon, which purportedly grows twice as fast as conventional salmon. All of the available evidence strongly suggests that GE salmon—whose trade name is AquAdvantage salmon—offers no growth-rate advantage over conventional salmon already in commercial production.
“The debate in Washington over GE salmon isn’t cold, hard science versus irrational consumers,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “It’s cold-hard science versus the biotechnology industry and its hype. If GE salmon really can grow fast, let’s see the science behind it.”
The FDA only examined GE salmon’s growth rates to the size of a quarter-pound hamburger—about one-fortieth the normal harvest weight. This comparison was only made between GE salmon and a partially domesticated fish, not the fast-growing, highly domesticated salmon that dominate commercial production. Even the company now admits it has never done a head-to-head comparison with fast-growing Norwegian salmon, which appear to grow faster than GE salmon.
“FDA shouldn’t wait for the marketplace to determine if GE salmon is a dud, while treating consumers like guinea pigs” said Hauter. “There is simply no reason for FDA to introduce unnecessary environmental and food safety risks into our food supply.”
Food & Water Watch’s federal comments to the FDA, submitted last Friday, also offer a new statistical analysis of the FDA’s impoverished data review of GE salmon, which was widely attacked by the agency’s own advisory board in 2010. Conducted with assistance with a faculty member of in the Department of Biostatistics at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, the new statistical analysis shows that FDA has not studied nearly enough fish to make confident conclusions about the safety of GE salmon. The FDA would need to triple—or in some cases quintuple—the number of salmon it examined in order to make confident conclusions about safety dimensions like hormone and allergy levels, which appear dramatically elevated in GE salmon.
“Our new statistical analysis shows that the FDA hasn’t examined nearly enough data to make any meaningful conclusions about critical food safety concerns like hormone levels and allergies,” said Hauter. “The FDA’s decision to move forward with GE salmon based on data from only a handful of fish is extremely irresponsible from a consumer protection standpoint and totally unjustified from a scientific perspective.”
To view the public comment Food & Water Watch submitted to the FDA: