Genetically Modified Salmon Present a Number of Risks to Consumer Health and Environment

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Lauren Wright, 202-683-4929; lwright@fwwatch.org

Genetically Modified Salmon Present a Number of Risks to Consumer Health and Environment

Statement from Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director, Food & Water Watch

WASHINGTON - "As rumors swirl that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may
allow the sale of genetically modified (GM) salmon to consumers, flaws
in the review process surrounding this controversial disruption to the
natural food chain are coming into focus. The FDA, which has been tasked
with overseeing the public's health, could approve the divisive science
experiment as early as this fall - a decision that consumers strongly
oppose. If approved, the salmon would represent the first genetically
modified animal sold as food to unsuspecting consumers (currently, there
are no labeling requirements in place to assist consumers in
identifying and avoiding GM foods)."

"Unfortunately, many in the aquaculture industry seek to genetically
engineer fish to speed up production of their product. In this case, the
company lobbying the FDA for approval, AquaBounty Technologies, wants
to combine salmon genes that control growth hormone with a gene from
another fish, the ocean pout. The ocean pout gene would keep the growth
hormone in production, effectively creating mutant salmon that grow at
twice the normal rate."

"Unfortunately, the FDA's tests (historically used to determine if a
non-GM food was safe) were created before GM products became a reality
and are insufficient in determining the long-term, unforeseen
consequences of the GM salmon in question. Put simply, these dated tests
cannot determine the salmon's full allergenicity and toxicity."

"And toxic they are - a recent study commissioned by the European
Union revealed that fish that have been modified to grow faster also
have a higher tolerance to the toxins in their environment. Researchers
expressed concerns that both these toxins and the growth hormones would
end up in consumers."

"In addition to the FDA's inability to test for the full range of
consumer health threats introduced by GM foods, the agency's tests do
not include a review of the GM animals' environmental impacts."

"This is unacceptable, as European researchers also found that
genetically modified fish ‘have a considerably greater effect on the
natural environment than hatchery-reared non-transgenic species when
they escape.'"

"AquaBounty has claimed that they will raise their fish in land-based
facilities where ocean escapes are impossible, but what about the
masses of corporations that will no doubt race to produce GM fish in the
crowded open ocean facilities they already utilize for fish production?
If the FDA approves GM fish, these fish will likely escape from their
floating ocean pens (millions of salmon currently escape from them every
year). Furthermore, even if a company promises to produce sterile fish
incapable of interbreeding with the wild population, fast growing GM
fish can easily outcompete wild fish for natural resources."

"These documented environmental and consumer health dangers prove
that the public's distrust of GM products, as reflected in a recent
Consumer Reports poll, is not without warrant. The 2008 poll revealed
that the majority of Americans are concerned about consuming products
from GM animals and 95 percent agree that these products should, at the
very least, be labeled."

"If studies have revealed the dangers of GM foods and the public has
verbalized their distaste, why would AquaBounty claim that the FDA is
close to approving their product? The reality is that consumers can keep
this potentially hazardous food off of their dinner plates by demanding
that the FDA perform up-to-date, comprehensive reviews of any new GM
product, starting with AquaBounty."

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Food & Water Watch is a nonprofit consumer organization that works to ensure clean water and safe food. We challenge the corporate control and abuse of our food and water resources by empowering people to take action and by transforming the public consciousness about what we eat and drink.

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