FDA Green Lights Genetically Engineered Salmon Despite Public Opposition

By on January 10, 2013

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced on December 26, 2012, in the face of major opposition from citizens and public interest groups and over 400,000 opposing comments, that it is about to give genetically engineered salmon its final approval.  Genetically engineered (GE) or genetically modified organisms (GMO) have been an issue of contention between consumers and the food industry for years, and the battle lines are growing larger as more consumers become knowledgeable about the issue.

GE or GMOs are typically vegetables, such as corn, soy and canola, which have been genetically modified through their DNA, not through cross-breeding, to exhibit traits that they would not naturally have.  For instance, many GMOs are created to be resistant to pesticides, which permits more pesticide to be used and absorbed by the plants to kill insects and weeds, and others are developed to be pesticides themselves so insects die upon eating them.  Food products containing GMOs are not labelled as such and when consumers ingest these GMOs, they are potentially consuming their DNA, pesticides and growth hormones.

Even though some other countries prohibit GMOs and require their labeling, the food industry, driven by companies like Monsanto who develop GMOs, has vigorously opposed the US government regulation of them.  In fact in the current uproar over GE salmon, the government has not considered the safety of consuming GE salmon that continuously produces growth hormones to grow twice as fast and twice the size of natural salmon or its potential ecological and economic impact.   Furthermore, some scientists predict that GE salmon that may escape will likely destroy the wild populations of this fish and the livelihood of coastal fishing communities.  These same companies dumped millions into a campaign to narrowly defeat a November 2012 ballot measure in California, which would have required the labeling of products that contain GMOs.  However, surveys indicate that as many as 90% of consumers want to know if GMOs are in their food, which will likely result in more pressure on the food industry to label GMO products and more potential consumer driven initiatives to legally require it.