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More than 1.8 million people submitted comments on April 26 objecting to the approval of genetically engineered salmon by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The effort was driven by a broad coalition organized over three years ago by the Center for Food Safety and consisting of public interest, consumer, environmental and animal protection groups, along with commercial and recreational fisheries associations and food businesses and retailers.
“It is extremely disappointing that the Obama Administration continues to push approval of this dangerous and unnecessary product through a broken regulatory system,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director for Center for Food Safety, in a statement. “The GE salmon has no socially redeeming value; it’s bad for the consumer, bad for the environment, and bad for our native salmon.”
The FDA first announced that it was considering the approval of a GE salmon in August 2010. If approved, it would be the first-ever GE animal permitted for human consumption in the U.S. April 26 marked the close of a 120-day comment period on a revised draft environmental assessment for the GE salmon, which has remained a concern for consumers and Congress alike.
Documents disclosed through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request raise serious questions about the adequacy of the FDA’s review of the AquAdvantage Salmon application, according to some of the opposing groups. They claim that the FDA has refused to look at the environmental impacts of these GE fish beyond the Canadian and Panamanian facilities proposed in the application, and that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service may have already received requests to import AquAdvantage Salmon eggs into the U.S. for commercial production.
The groups responsible for organizing the over 1.8 million comments included: Avaaz, Center for Food Safety, Friends of the Earth, Food and Water Watch, MoveOn, Organic Consumers Association, Food Democracy Now, Credo, Consumers Union, Just Label It, Farm Sanctuary, Cascadia Wildlands, Earthjustice, American Anti-Vivisection Society, Institute for Responsible Technology, and the Alliance for Natural Health – USA.
Today, 12 Senators led by Senator Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and 21 Representatives led by Congressmen Don Young (R-AK-01), Mike Thompson (D-CA-05) and Jared Huffman (D-CA-02) sent letters to the FDA urging it to halt its approval until their economic, regulatory and environmental concerns are addressed. The Congressional letters come just months after an amendment offered by Senator Begich to the Senate Budget Resolution passed by voice vote in favor of the labeling of GE fish.
In addition to Congressional attention, the FDA received joint letters from major groups and businesses reflecting broad public opposition to GE salmon. A joint letter was submitted by CEOs of major environmental organizations, including American Rivers, the Center for Food Safety, Earthjustice, Friends of the Earth, Food & Water Watch, Greenpeace, Natural Resources Defense Council, Ocean Conservancy and Sierra Club.
A variety of other groups also have voiced their opposition to GE salmon, including several indigenous groups. Citing numerous fisheries and economic concerns, over 250 businesses, individuals, public interest groups and fisheries organizations, representing fishermen and -women across the U.S., joined a letter to FDA, including the Alaska Trollers Association, the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance, Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association and the Alaska Marine Conservation Council.
“U.S. fishermen take seriously the job of delivering a wholesome, sustainable, high quality product to market,” said Dale Kelly, executive director of the Alaska Trollers Association. “Applying such invasive technology to a food fish has not been adequately studied for its impacts on human health, the environment or American jobs.”
The market has already started to reject GE salmon. Supermarket chains with more than 2,500 grocery stores across the county have committed not to sell GE seafood should it come to market, and 260 chefs across the country have signed on to a letter by Chefs Collaborative objecting to the transgenic fish.
“We don’t believe this engineered salmon is either healthful or sustainable,” said Trudy Bialic of PCC Natural Markets in Seattle. “We won’t sell it.”