Sep 02 2010

Just Say No to Frankenfish

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced on August 25, 2010 that it will potentially approve the long-shelved AquAdvantage transgenic salmon as the first genetically engineered (GE) animal intended for human consumption. The GE Atlantic salmon being considered was developed by AquaBounty Technologies, and genetically engineered to produce growth hormones year-round, creating a fish the company claims grows at twice the normal rate. This could allow factory fish farms to crowd the salmon into pens and still get high production rates.

We have only a short window to tell FDA to reject these GE fish – Can you send a comment today?

Each year millions of farmed salmon escape from open-water net pens, outcompeting wild populations for resources and straining ecosystems. Any approval of GE salmon would represent another serious threat to the survival of native salmon populations, many of which have already suffered severe declines related to salmon farms and other man-made impacts. Research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences notes that a release of just sixty GE salmon into a wild population of 60,000 could lead to the extinction of the wild population in less than 40 fish generations. Wild Atlantic salmon are already on the Endangered Species List in the U.S.; approving these GE Atlantic salmon will be the final blow to these wild stocks.

The human health impacts of eating GE fish are entirely unknown, but some scientific research raises cause for alarm: for example, some scientists have asserted that foreign growth hormones in transgenetic fish may increase production of other compounds such as insulin in the fish. Additionally, FDA has recognized that a transgene cannot be “turned off” once it is inserted in the organism, and will therefore have effects that are uncontrollable.

These GE farmed salmon will also carry with them all of the health hazards of other farmed salmon, but transgenic fish may be more susceptible to disease than fish currently grown in aquaculture facilities because transgenic fish are identified as “macro-mutants” with a reduced ability to survive. Consequently, the amount of antibiotics given to transgenic fish may be higher than the amount currently given to farmed fish; already farmed salmon are given more antibiotics than any other livestock by weight, threatening the health of those who eat them and the continued efficacy of these antibiotics to treat human disease.

The company first applied for approval of the fish in 2001, but the Bush Administration delayed its approval until it was out of office. Ironically, the Obama Administration, who came to office promising a more environmentally sound and transparent process, is using the Bush Administration-developed framework for the approval of genetically engineered animals. This process uses the fiction that the genetically engineered salmon is, in effect, an animal “drug.” The failure of the FDA to develop a transparent process for the approval of GE animals and instead use the secretive process of the New Animal Drug regulations means that consumers will be deprived of basic information as to the safety of these animals.

Tell the Food and Drug Administration not to approve GE salmon AND, if the Obama Administration insists on approving these genetically engineered fish, it should require the fish to be labeled when marketed to fish farmers, fish retailers and food companies, restaurants, and when marketed to consumers.

Please take action today! The hearing for approving the salmon is scheduled for Sunday, September 19, and no public comment period has been established for the approval of genetically engineered fish outside of this meeting, so this may be our only chance to oppose this dangerous approval! Only a public comment period on labeling of the GE fish has been opened.


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