We think the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) was wrong to approve GMO salmon. But it did.
The least the FDA can do now is require clear labels on a genetically engineered food product that some scientists agree poses risks to human health and the environment.
TAKE ACTION: Tell your members of Congress to support the Genetically Engineered Salmon Labeling Act (H.R. 1104)!
In November 2015, the FDA approved genetically engineered salmon for sale in the U.S., despite our best efforts to stop them.
So far, GMO salmon hasn’t been sold in the U.S. because Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) managed to get the FDA to ban the import and sale of “frankenfish” until the agency agreed to establish labeling guidelines for it.
According to a Washington Post report, the FDA initially said it couldn’t require additional labeling of genetically engineered foods, such as GMO salmon, unless the agency determined that there was a “material difference” between the GMO salmon, and salmon that hasn’t been genetically engineered. The FDA claims there is no material difference. However, the agency told the Washington Post that it would comply fully with the language in Murkowski’s bill requiring the temporary ban.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) meanwhile is working on finalizing GMO labeling rules since the passage of what became known as the "DARK Act." Those rules are shaping up just as we expected: as nothing more than a weak scheme involving QR codes and telephone numbers--and little or no useful labels for consumers.
Murkowski says that’s not good enough. So she’s reintroduced a bill to require clear labels on GMO salmon.
No health risks? Scientists say ‘not so fast’
Murkowski sided with consumers on the “right to know” issue, when she reintroduced the Genetically Engineered Salmon Labeling Act in January. Here’s what she had to say in her press release:
"When you splice DNA from another animal and combine it with farmed salmon, you are essentially creating a new species and I have serious concerns with that. If we are going to allow this fabricated fish to be sold in stores, we must ensure there is at least clear labeling. Americans should not become test subjects for this new product without their full knowledge and consent.”
The GE salmon, developed by AquaBounty Technologies, is engineered to grow about twice as fast as typical farm-raised salmon. Bioengineers accomplished this by inserting the DNA from two other fish, a growth-promoting gene from a Chinook salmon and a "promoter" gene from the eel-like ocean pout.
Some scientists say there are a lot of reasons for consumers to be concerned about GMO salmon, and all farmed fish, for that matter.
One of those reasons has to do with allergies. Michael Hansen, senior scientist at Consumers Union, argues that the FDA never properly tested GMO salmon. Hansen told Mother Jones that the FDA panel in charge of the approving the fish was “mostly comprised of GE cheerleaders, with no fish or ecologists or allergists—even though AquaBounty Technologies’ own testing said it could be much more allergenic than regular salmon.
Without labeling, allergic reactions could occur without any way to diagnose the problem—because GM technology allows scientists to “move a highly allergenic protein into a new food, and no one will know to avoid the new food,” said Margaret Mellon, director of the Union of Concerned Scientists Food and Environment Program.
Another potential health risk? The growth hormones that make the GMO salmon grow so fast. Hansen told GM Watch:
“The other thing is these fish are engineered to have way more growth hormones than normal . . . And we know, from the growth hormones that are put in beef, that they can create a hormone called IGF, which increases insulin formation.”
The IGF-1 insulin growth factor in the fish that have promoted the fishes’ large size and rapid growth. According to one report in GM Watch, it’s known that in adult humans, IGF-1 “can promote abnormal growth, including the spread (metastasis) of cancer cells. Elevated levels of IGF-1 have been linked to colon, prostate and breast cancer.”
Murkowski has tried multiple times, without luck, to advance her GMO salmon labeling bill. It’s only a matter of time before GMO salmon show up in U.S. stores and restaurants. Please take action today!