I really can’t wrap my head around any of this.
The FDA appears to be close to approving the sale of genetically modified (GM) salmon. To me, GM or genetically engineered (GE) foods - especially animal products (this salmon would be the first available in the U.S.) - are problematic as it is. But to top it off, there is no mandate that GM/GE foods be labeled as such. As for salmon, whether salmon is wild or farm-raised needs to be specified where it’s sold… so in what way does it possibly make sense that GM salmon doesn’t need to have a label indicating it as such?? Or any other GM/GE food, for that matter? Plain and simple, it doesn’t.
Even if GM/GE food is the way of the future (or present, as plenty GM/GE products are on grocery store shelves everywhere), it still boggles my mind that there aren’t strict rules mandating that these products be clearly labeled. We as consumers have the right to make informed choices about the foods we put into our bodies, and this complete lack of transparency really tramples all over that right.
The company bringing us this
mutant GM fish is AquaBounty. According to their website, they are “developing advanced-hybrid salmon, trout, and tilapia designed to grow faster than their conventional siblings.” As for the salmon, they write: “AquAdvantage® Salmon (AAS) include a gene from the Chinook salmon, which provides the fish with the potential to grow to market size in half the time of conventional salmon. In all other respects, AAS are identical to other Atlantic salmon.”
So they are touting the benefit of this salmon as being it’s speedy development time ,as compared to “conventional” (i.e., NATURAL) salmon. Even if they have conducted research supporting the safety of this salmon, my personal belief is that even simply due to time - or lack thereof - there is no way to know what potential negative effects this could have in the long run.
Consumer groups are (rightfully!) petitioning both the apparently imminent approval of GM salmon and the lack of a label requirement. They wrote: “Atlantic salmon is a substance traditionally regarded as safe. [AquaBounty’s] GE process significantly alters the salmon’s composition, however, in a way that is reasonably expected to alter its nutritive value or concentration of constituents, and the new substance raises safety concerns… Under the Agency’s regulations and guidelines, such a substance must be treated as a food additive and the Agency must make a closer inquiry into the safety of its consumption, including, but not limited to, subjecting it to extensive pre-market testing.”
Sounds very reasonable to me.
I am no conspiracy theorist and I am not an all-around skeptic or cynic, but regardless of research or studies indicating the safety of GM/GE foods, the realist in me immediately sees a large, shiny red flag being raised at the idea of foods/ingredients altered in such a way from their natural state - especially animal products. I have issues as it is with non-animal product GM/GE foods - but to alter animals in such a way is an even bigger beast. I love science, but I don’t think living things that we then put in our bodies were meant to be meddled with in such a way. I worry the risk will very, very much so outweigh any purported benefit, now or down the road.
Perhaps the key point here though is that regardless of whether you personally are for or against the manufacturing, sale and consumption of GM/GE foods, we should be able to very easily know whether what we are eating falls into that category or not. And the fact that some major food corporations and government agencies say otherwise makes less than no sense to me.
On another personal note, this announcement about salmon disappoints me especially as a salmon-lover - it’s one of my favorite types of fish, especially in sushi form - but unless I can be sure whether salmon I am about to consume is GM, I won’t be eating it at all anymore.
Read more about this news via the following links (or do an online search and pick from the many, many available sources):