Americans Reject Frankenfish

Americans Reject GESalmon photo
Photo credit jlastras via flickr.

If you've been following AquaBounty's attempt to get Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for its AquAdvantage genetically engineered salmon (the salmon has extra genes from Chinook salmon and an eel-like species called the ocean pout to make it grow much faster than normal) you might already know that FDA has given preliminary approval and is weighing final approval in two day of hearings. What you might not know is that a strong majority of Americans surveyed by the environmental group Food & Water Watch believe the FDA shouldn't approve sale of this fish until further studies have been done.Seventy-eight percent of the 1,000 U.S. adults surveyed by Food & Water Watch opposed approval of AquaAdvantage until more research is completed.

In fact, according to Food and Water Watch, once survey respondents were given a bit more information about the potential for genetically engineered cows, pigs, and chickens, 91% of them opposed FDA approval of all GE meats for the marketplace. (AquaBounty itself is working on GE versions of tilapia and trout.)

Pollster Joshu Uilbarri of Lake Reserach, which conducted the survey, had this to say:

"It is rare in public opinion polling to find 91 percent of Americans agreeing on any one issue. It only amplifies the findings to learn the intensity is as broad and deep as it is here."

AquaAdvantage salmon are engineered to be sterile, so that they can not mate with wild salmon. But according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium (which also opposes approval of the GE salmon) the method used - triploidy - to produce sterile fish is imperfect.

In a letter to the FDA, Monterey Bay Aquarium said that the escape of AquAdvantage salmon into the wild must be considered a possibility, and because the salmon cannot be guaranteed to be 100% sterile, the risk exists of contamination of wild stocks with GE farmed salmon. Consumers Union ia also currently opposing approval for AquAdvantage, due to what it says is incomplete data and an unconventional approval process.

Some scientists also worry that AquAdvantage salmon could also pose more allergenic risk to humans.

The FDA in advance of the two days of hearings, has given initial approval of AquAdvantage, saying that the salmon is not significantly different from its non-GE salmon relatives, and also agreed with AquaBounty that it would be unlikely to escape into the wild. Tuesday's hearing will consider whether the GE salmon, if it is allowed into the marketplace, should be labeled as genetically engineered. The Wall Street Journal says current FDA rules would not require the AquAdvantage to be labeled as GE unless it was proven to be significantly different than the non-GE salmon.

Once you read a variety of stories on AquAdvantage and the FDA's process so far, it begins to seem inevitable that the GE salmon will be approved, and likely without being labeled, in spite of Food and Water Watch's survey showing that Americans don't approve.

Read more about genetically engineered foods at TreeHugger:
Genetically-Modified Salmon May Be Declared "Safe" for Human Consumption in US
Genetically Modified Food: Why We Need More Information
Canada Approves Enviropig™, Piglets Inherit Genetic Modifications for Clean Manure

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