Genetically engineered salmon could soon be on its way to your local grocery store – but you won’t find it at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s or Aldi. These grocers are among the first to pledge not to sell the genetically modified fish if it is approved by the FDA for market. Several smaller chains, including Marsh Supermarkets, PCC Natural Markets and some independent stores, have also made the commitment. [3/26 update: BREAKING NEWS! Major Texas grocery chain H-E-B also agrees not to sell GE salmon.]
If approved for sale, GE salmon will be the first genetically modified animal product to hit the market. Consumers would have a hard time avoiding it at the fish counter, however, since the modified fish would not be required to carry a label.
Approval for sale by the FDA could come within the next month or two, but Consumers Union believes the fish should not be allowed to come to market until, at a minimum, its safety is guaranteed for consumers. As a member of the Campaign for GE-free Seafood, we’re encouraging grocery stores to preemptively refuse to sell the fish. You can add your voice to the growing movement too by taking action here.
Genetically engineered salmon, marketed under the name “AquAdvantage Salmon,” is Atlantic salmon that has been engineered with the DNA strains of other salmon and eel so that it can grow up to two times faster than a regular Atlantic salmon. Concerns about the fish include increased potential for allergic reactions as well as the possibility of escaped GE fish that could damage wild populations.
“Consumers Union has serious concerns about the safety of the first genetically engineered fish, a salmon engineered to grow to maturity twice as fast as wild salmon,” said Michael Hansen, PhD, senior scientist with Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports. “FDA decided based on data from just six fish that there was no increased risk to people with fish allergies. However, even these meager data suggest that these fish show increased allergic potential.”
Despite the fact that polls show a vast majority of consumers do not want to buy genetically modified fish, many of the national supermarket chains such as WalMart, Safeway and Costco have not yet announced plans to ban GE salmon from their stores.
Many states are now taking matters into their own hands by proposing laws that would require labeling of all food products that contain genetically modified ingredients – among them Connecticut, Vermont, Washington and New Jersey.
But the fate of GE salmon rests in the hands of the FDA, which is taking public comment until April 20 before issuing a decision. Don’t wait until this fish shows up – unlabeled! – in your local store. Take action now and tell the FDA that before GE fish is approved, the agency must assure its safety. If it comes to market, it must be labeled so consumers have a choice.
– Maureen Mahoney contributed to this blog.