The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has yet to say yes or no to genetically modified salmon, but the two largest grocery stores in the country have made up their minds. Kroger and Safeway announced today that they will not carry "AquAdvantage" salmon, should the FDA approve it.
The genetically engineered fish developed by AquaBounty is set to become the first genetically engineered animal approved for human consumption. Dubbed the "Frankenfish" by opponents of GMO foods, the salmon has come up against fierce opposition. The FDA received over 1 million letters calling for the agency to not approve AquAdvantage during 2013, in response to an Environmental Assessment open to public comment.
AquaBounty recently overcame a regulatory hurdle in Canada, where it has been approved to mass-produce AquAdvantage eggs.
The U.S. currently has no requirement for labeling foods containing GMO ingredients, so it will be difficult for consumers to avoid AquAdvantage salmon if it is approved. One could argue that rejecting GMO salmon allows grocery stores to capitalize on anti-GMO sentiment, while continuing to carry many foods with GMO ingredients. However, it seems that producing a genetically engineered animal is more troubling to many than genetically engineered plants.
Should the FDA green-light the fish, opponents of the salmon hope to block AquaBounty's channels to the market. In that regard, today's announcement seems like a major win. Kroger and Safeway join dozens of other grocery stores that have already promised to not carry the genetically engineered fish, including Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, Meijer and Aldi.
"Today's announcement by major grocery retailers makes it even more clear that there is no demand for GE salmon," Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, said in a statement. "It's time for the FDA to deny the application for this unsustainable and unnecessary new genetically engineered food."