Food and environmental campaigners are determined to keep genetically-engineered (GE) salmon out of rivers and oceans and, at the very least, off of seafood retailers' shelves.
To that end, people across the United States will mobilize this week to press the warehouse chain Costco Wholesale Corporation to publicly pledge that it will not sell genetically engineered salmon in its stores under any circumstances, even if they are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Costco is being targeted because it is one of the last holdouts. Over 60 retail and grocery giants—from Target to Safeway to Kroger—already pledged in June not to sell the GE fish, in response to a sustained campaign from labor, community, and environmental groups. But Costco refused to make such a promise, despite the concern of the retailer's members.
Jaydee Hanson, senior policy analyst at the Center for Food Safety (CFS), told Common Dreams that Costco's management has not heard the last of these concerns: "What we are asking our members to do is to go to their local Costco store this week and ask to speak to store manager. We are asking them to give the store our letter, urging them to say no to GE salmon, and take a picture outside of the store holding a sign."
Hanson said he expects large numbers of CFS members to turn out for the week of action.
This is not the first mobilization against the GE salmon, which were engineered by the biotech firm AquaBounty Technologies. According to the estimates of the CFS, nearly two million people have expressed their opposition to the approval to the FDA over threats to human and environmental health. Despite this mobilization, the FDA is still weighing whether to approve the GE salmon.
If the FDA says yes, it will be the first time GE animals are allowed into the U.S. food supply.
"The risks that genetically engineered salmon pose to our health and the environment are too great," said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, in a press statement. "It's time for the FDA to deny the application for this unsustainable and unnecessary new genetically engineered food.”
"Salmon are already endangered in the Pacific Northwest," added Heather Day, executive director of Community Alliance for Global Justice. "As a major corporation based in this region, Costco needs to be responsible stewards of wild salmon and reject GMO salmon."
Scientists are also sounding the alarm. A draft risk assessment from Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans noted that GE salmon "have a higher susceptibility to disease-causing bacteria, indicating unique animal health concerns in this genetically engineered fish," according to a summary from CFS. And in a study published in 2013, researchers from Newfoundland’s Memorial University concluded that genetically engineered salmon, if introduced into the wild, would become an invasive species and wreak havoc on the ecosystem.
"The company says GE salmon are not engineered to breed," said Hanson. "But in order to make the fish sterile, they have to make a lot of them that are not sterile. We are worried those fish could get out."