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Frankenfish Lives: Halloween's Not Over for the FDA

 

Even though Halloween has come and gone, the Food and Drug Administration is still busy scaring U.S. consumers. Despite much public skepticism, the FDA is currently considering an application for genetically engineered (GE) salmon to enter the U.S. food supply. Despite the company’s, Massachusetts-based AquaBounty’s, attempts to portray this creature as a miracle fish that achieves full size at twice the normal speed, GE salmon poses a serious threat to human health, wild salmon ecosystems, and small fishing communities. 

The FDA’s approval of this Frankenfish would mean the first-ever GE meat approved for human consumption, which could haunt the shelves of our grocery stores as early as next year. 

Here are the top three scariest things about Frankenfish:

  1. It’s technically a DRUG: You read that right. This “fish” that could end up on your dinner plate, is classified by the FDA as a “veterinary drug,” not a food. This is mostly because the FDA has never considered the approval of a GE meat before. Rather than establishing a new protocol for evaluating the human health and environmental risks, they’re trying to fit a square peg through a round hole by pushing this fish through the approval process typically reserved for the hormones injected into factory farmed chickens, or the antibiotics used in mass cow milk production. I don’t eat those drugs, and I wouldn’t eat this fish, either!
  2. It would NOT be labeled: Although there are bills in Congress to address the problem, as it currently stands, the GE salmon is not required to be labeled in stores, supermarkets or restaurants. This farmed freak-fish could be on your plate and you wouldn’t even know it.
  3. Bigger, hungrier, faster: Frankenfish is genetically designed to grow faster than typical farmed salmon, which means it will be freakishly hungry – its metabolism is so sped up that it will likely require even more wild fish protein in its feed than typical farmed salmon. The small fish that make up the base of the ocean food web (sardines, anchovies, menhaden) are already being over fished to supply factory fish farms, and Frankenfish would devour these small fish populations even faster. And just imagine what could happen if this ravenous creature escapes: it could displace other wild fish as it forages for food and shelter in a wild ecosystem. Laboratory tests have shown that GE salmon shows less fear in exploring new territory than naturally timid wild fish, and so it could bully other fish out of their typical habitats.

How can we wake up from this nightmare?  Here at Food & Water Watch, we’re organizing to stop GE salmon from reaching the food supply. Pressure from organizations and the general public has encouraged several lawmakers [link] including Senators Feinstein and Boxer to support legislation that would ban GE salmon, or at least to label it. You can encourage your own senators to support this legislation by going here.

Curious to learn more? San Francisco FWW organizer and SalmonAid co-president Marie Logan was recently interviewed by Stephen Satterfield, manager of the wildly popular and delicious local food restaurant Nopa. Along with Kenny Belov, a sustainable seafood purveyor and owner of seafood wholesale business Two X Sea, Marie and Stephen talked about the many risks that wild salmon face today, from the pollution of salmon farms to the emerging threat of Frankenfish. It’s an informative interview and a great way to get up to speed on the work that’s being done to stop this nightmare from becoming a reality. You can listen to the podcast here.

 

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