Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

salmon

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Friday lifted an import alert that banned genetically modified or GE salmon. (Photo: Pixabay)

Here Come the Frankenfish: Critics Warn GE Salmon Import Approval Puts Consumers and Fisheries at 'Serious Risk'

Consumer advocates charge the move "runs counter to sound science and market demand."

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."

"With this move, FDA has put American consumers at serious risk by putting unlabeled, unnatural fish on the market."
—Friends of the Earth

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 United States.

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 (pdf) 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."

"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."

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."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
We need your help.

Support progressive journalism.

Common Dreams is not your average news site. We don't survive on clicks or advertising dollars. We rely entirely on your support. And without it, our independent progressive journalism simply wouldn’t exist. Every gift of every amount matters.

Join the fight and support our common dreams today.

Summit Participants Embrace 'Vaccine Internationalism' to End Pandemic

"Our goal is simple: to end the pandemic as quickly as possible by securing Covid-19 vaccines for all," says the coordinator of Progressive International's four-day virtual summit.

Brett Wilkins, staff writer ·


As Iran Elects New President, Experts Urge Biden to Rejoin Nuclear Deal, Lift Sanctions

"The Biden administration must remain resolute and seek a break from the disastrous conditions that helped contribute to this result."

Brett Wilkins, staff writer ·


UN General Assembly Condemns Myanmar Junta Violence, Urges Arms Embargo

Member nations voted 119-1 in favor of the resolution, which also calls for a return to the country's fragile democracy.

Brett Wilkins, staff writer ·


Dems Introduce Abolition Amendment to Scrap Constitution's 'Slavery Clause'

"The loophole in our Constitution's ban on slavery not only allowed slavery to continue, but launched an era of discrimination and mass incarceration that continues to this day," said Sen. Jeff Merkley.

Julia Conley, staff writer ·


'Surreal' and 'Distressing': Climate Experts' Predictions Come True With US Heatwave

"The current heatwave and drought leave no doubt, we are living the dangerous effects of the climate crisis."

Jessica Corbett, staff writer ·