“FDA Puts U.S. Consumers At ‘Serious Risk’ by Allowing GE Salmon ‘Frankenfish’ Imports” – (Ecowatch)

It’s been a while since this was last on my radar.

https://www.ecowatch.com/fda-approves-ge-salmon-imports-2631389777.html

The Trump administration has lifted a ban on importing genetically engineered or GE salmon, which critics have long called “Frankenfish,” in a move that consumer advocates charge “runs counter to sound science and market demand.”

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the decision on Friday, more than three years after approving GE salmon as the first biotech animal authorized for commercial sale and consumption in the U.S.

That approval as well as the agency’s repeal of the import alert are major wins for the biotech industry — and have come despite concerns repeatedly raised by environmental and public health advocates about the threats to wild salmon populations and consumers.

As Politico reported:

“The alert was put in place after a spending bill provision backed by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) blocked the fish from entering commerce in the U.S. until FDA finalized labeling guidelines that would inform consumers the product was genetically modified.
FDA on Friday said it no longer needs to finalize those labeling guidelines because a 2016 law requiring the disclosure of genetically engineered ingredients nationwide applies to the salmon, essentially taking the product outside of FDA’s purview.”

The Trump administration’s guidelines for the GE or GMO labeling law, released last year by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), have been described by critics as “a disaster.” As Common Dreams reported in December, “To make the disclosure, food producers have four options: text, a friendly-looking symbol, an electronic or digital link, or a text message.”

I covered the GMO labeling issue HERE. Despite the partisan nature of it all, the detractors did indeed have a point. It’s obvious that favours were granted considering how easy the law is to openly circumvent on a food label. Just slap on a QR code and you’re compliant!

Public education would go a LONG way in this area. I just hope we’re not beyond the point of no return, already.

“USDA’s new guidelines don’t require adequate mandatory labeling, don’t require calling the fish ‘genetically engineered,’ and don’t help consumers know what kind of fish they are buying,” George Kimbrell, legal director at the Center for Food Safety, said in a statement on Monday.

“These guidelines don’t require mandatory labeling of GE salmon, and instead allow producers to use QR codes or 1-800 numbers for more information. That clearly is not what the Murkowski amendment requires,” added Kimbrell, whose group is considering legal action against the FDA.

The FDA’s decision, made without consulting indigenous groups who rely on salmon for food and income, also roiled tribal leaders.

“It’s unconscionable and arrogant to think man can improve upon our Creator’s perfection in wild salmon as a justification and excuse to satisfy corporate ambition and greed,” declared Fawn Sharp, president of the Quinault Indian Nation. Sharp said the unilateral move “is an alarming signal that our sacred and prized wild salmon is now even more vulnerable to external markets and ecological threats.”

Valerie Segrest, Muckleshoot tribal member and executive director of Feed Seven Generations, concurred.

“Clearly this is an appropriation of our culture and this action will lead to inevitable contamination and irreversible damage to our food system,” Segret concluded. “By lifting the ban on genetically engineered salmon, the FDA has put American consumers at serious risk and has directly attacked the life ways of Pacific Northwest Tribal communities.”

To say that this argument is shaky is an understatement. Arrogant. . .fine. I’m reminded of the stubborn old man who refuses to embrace the upgrades of modernity because “The old ways work just fine!”.

As for cultural appropriation . . . now that is just an insult to REAL cultural appropriation. Let’s not be ridiculous.

Might this eventually have an effect on their livelihood, given unforeseen consequences? 
It’s possible. The farmers of the Asian carp (which is now wreaking havoc in many American waterways and is well on the way to the Great Lakes) likely didn’t ever envision being the source of a massive ecological disaster. 

You can make your case without resorting to the ridiculous.

Further, as Dana Perls, a senior food policy campaigner with Friends of the Earth, pointed out, the agency’s decision doesn’t align with public demand: “More than 80 retailers have said they won’t sell this risky, unlabeled GMO fish and polls show consumers don’t want it.”

Given the amount of rhetoric surrounding it (and really, ANYTHING with ANY  amount of genetically modified ingredients over the 0.000000000000000000000000001% threshold) I am not at all surprised that the public is against this. And when it comes to retail, they know where their bread is buttered . . . OF COURSE, they are going to be on board with not selling what no one wants to begin with!

Is this new variety of so-called franken-fish something we ought to be worrying about? 

Aquadvantage Salman has been around since 1989, getting the name partly from the company in which developed it (Aquabounty).

A growth hormone-regulating gene from Pacific Chinook salmon, with a promoter gene from ocean pout, were added to the Atlantic salmon’s genes These two genes enable the GM salmon to grow year-round instead of only during spring and summer.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AquAdvantage_salmon

The concept is familiar to me, though it’s been years since I last thought about it.

However, to the extent that production would occur with less restrictive containment conditions than those proposed (e.g., fish might not be triploid, might not be reared in land-based facilities, or might not be subjected to multiple and redundant forms of physical containment), it is expected that adverse environmental impacts to the United States might be more likely to occur than under the conditions of production and grow-out for the proposed action.

FDA, having reviewed the materials submitted in support of an NADA for AquAdvantage Salmon, has made a “no effect” determination under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), 16 USC § 1531 et seq., that approval of the AquAdvantageSalmon NADA will not jeopardize the continued existence of United States populations of threatened or endangered Atlantic salmon, or result in the destruction or adverse modification of their critical habitat, when produced and reared under the conditions described within the attached draft EA.

The two federal agencies responsible for administering the ESA, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Department of Commerce) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) of the Department of Interior, have been provided with this “no effect” determination and underlying information in support of it, provided within the attached draft EA. Both of these agencies have either concurred with, or indicated no disagreement with, FDA’s “no effect” determination.

https://www.fda.gov/downloads/AnimalVeterinary/DevelopmentApprovalProcess/GeneticEngineering/GeneticallyEngineeredAnimals/UCM333105.pdf 

The FDA and all other associated regulators see no issue. It seems either with the consumption of the fish or in its propagation in proximity to natural waterways. Which is all I need.

No, I can’t put a bow on it and say “Case closed!”. If I go back to the Asian carp example, I am sure that similar regulations were also in place. Which didn’t help. 
And I also can’t guarantee that something isn’t getting overlooked. Humans are notorious for such incidents. Which is why the process of food and drug approval takes years (if not decades).

Having said that, the possibility of harm is not a justification for the complete dismissal of the concept. So enough with the fear mongering.

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