Several chefs say they would not serve genetically modified salmon in their restaurants. (Photo: Food & Water Watch)
GM salmon faces widespread opposition
Wednesday, September 15, 2010, 03:20 (GMT + 9)
Food & Water Watch and other groups have sent a letter to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) demanding that it discontinue its mostly secretive approval process for genetically engineered (GE) salmon. The fish could be sold as food by 2012 if it wins approval once a 60 day consultation period begins on 19 September.
“Consumers have a right to know that the FDA lacks the means to assess this fish as a genetically engineered animal intended for human consumption. If this product was approved, the resulting consumer health impact could be disastrous,” Food & Water Watch said.
Consumer, environmental, fishing, and animal welfare groups are all asking the FDA to reject the transgenic fish.
“Furthermore, consumers should be aware that the FDA has purposefully scheduled public hearings to limit public participation, beginning them on a Sunday in a remote location (Rockville, Maryland) and creating a complicated registration process for the largely unpublicized events,” Food & Water Watch continued. “In addition, the agency, which has been studying this fish for nearly a decade, released an insufficient amount of information on the matter (in the form of studies performed by AquaBounty, the company with a vested interest in selling its own product), barely two weeks before the public hearings are set to begin on 19 September.”
AquaBounty Technologies Inc developed the GM salmon, which involved adding genetic material from King salmon to Atlantic salmon. This allows the GM fish to reach maturity in half as long as normal farmed Atlantic salmon take to mature.
AquaBounty says the GM fish is designed to grow in contained, land-based facilities and that the fish are all sterile females, so that if they escape into the wild they will not be able to cross-breed with wild salmon and harm fisheries.
Another problem facing genetically modified salmon farmers is that they might have trouble finding restaurants that will carry their fish even if the FDA approves it.
Numerous restaurant chefs stated that they would not work with GM fish. Some voiced moral concerns about private companies patenting organisms, about the potential health effects of GM food and concern for environmental impacts.
“The eventual damage to the environment would be catastrophic. Scientists say they have sterilized the GMO fish, but eventually one will adapt and destroy the natural process,” said Chris Carriker, executive chef of The Gilt Club Restaurant in Portland, Oregon.
In a poll conducted recently on the NRN blog Food Writer’s Diary, 26 out of 32 respondents, or 81 per cent, stated they would not eat GM salmon or serve it in their restaurant, with two respondents saying they would try the fish and four saying they would consider it.
“It goes against my principles,” affirmed Andy Arndt, executive chef of Aquariva Restaurant in Portland, Oregon.
Genetically engineering fish would not be necessary if fisheries were managed properly, he said.
“I’m not interested in seeing ‘genetically altered’ anything in my restaurant,” asserted Antonio Bettencourt, chef-owner of 62 Restaurant & Wine Bar in Salem, Massachusetts.
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By Natalia Real