GM salmon don't swim safely

July 2014
Wild salmon. Photo Wikimedia Commons
In trying to introduce the first GM animal into the food chain, the US Food and Drug Federation (FDA) seems to be running up against some rather EU-type obstacles.  
The GM animal waiting to be marketed is AquaBounty's Atlantic Salmon with Ocean Pout growth-hormone genes.
FDA advisory scientists differ in their opinions of the GM fish, but are united in voicing several specific concerns, most notably that there is not enough science to demonstrate safety.

This is something the FDA doesn't want to hear, so it's busy burying it. Step-1 has been to disband the Veterinary Medicine Advisory Council (VMAC), the review body which is saying the wrong things. Step-2 is to disallow GM animal labelling. Once there are no messengers to give the bad news, and no consumers able to hear it, GM salmon should land, home and dry, on the dinner plate.
The excuses for these two moves are unconvincing. Suggestions that the VMAC is too costly to maintain appear vacuous because this committee's budget was zero last year. Suggestions that consumers would be misled by honest labelling appear nothing short of insulting to the American people the FDA is supposed to be working for.
From the industry and FDA point of view, GM salmon can't be allowed to fail, or biotech food animals of the future won't stand a chance (GM carp and pigs are already in the pipeline).
Fortunately, the US public has some representatives in government who are doing their duty.  
Congressman, Louis Slaughter, has raised two crucial issues. One is that the VMAC “provided invaluable peer-review of FDA's scientific analysis on the safety ... of genetically engineered animals” and, secondly, that it “allowed for a public forum on the important and controversial regulatory issue of GE animal approval”.
Senator, Lisa Murkowski, has succeeded in pushing through an amendment to the 2015 Agriculture spending bill requiring labelling of GM salmon.
Sentator Murkowski simply asked questions no one could answer, such as

“Why would we put so much at risk? Why would we invent a species what will outgrow our healthy natural stocks?”
... and pointed out that the GM salmon are a threat to the health of US fisheries in Alaska and worldwide.


Senator Murkowski could also have asked why the FDA, which is the US food safety watchdog, is secretive, pro-industry and dysfunctional in the matter of GM foods.
If you're not familiar with what the VMAC is so concerned about, check out [1].   
The regulation of the GM salmon seems to have followed much the same absurd path as GM potatoes in the past [2]. Under US law, the added growth hormone should have incurred labelling as an additive, but the fish were morphed into drugs for regulatory purposes (which should also have incurred labelling, and warnings about eating the fish during pregnancy or breast-feeding). They were then morphed back into fish so that labelling could be somehow forgotten in the process.
Any friends, relatives or colleagues you have in America might like to raise these issues with their representatives to ask for a little common sense in GM labelling and safety considerations.
[1] DRUGS THAT SWIM - GMFS ARCHIVE, November 2010.
  • Tim Schwab, If it ain't broke, don't fix it: FDA weakens public process on GMO animals, Food and Water Watch 28.04.14
  • Happy Birthday, Senator: Murkowski's Frankenfish Labeling Amendment Wins in Committee, Press Release 22.05.14,
  • Letter to the FDA from Congressman Louise Slaughter, 3.02.14
  • Labeling Requirements for Over-the-Counter Drugs,
Photo credit "Adult sockeye salmon encounter a waterfall on their way up river to spawn" by Marvina Munch, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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