[env-trinity] Gene-splice salmon a risky unknown --
Mark Dowdle - TCRCD
mdowdle at tcrcd.net
Mon Nov 22 13:55:34 PST 2010
*Gene-spliced salmon a risky unknown*
*Sacramento Bee-11/20/10 *
*By Noelle Ferdon and Rick Guerrero *
Although fish may not be on the menu for your Thanksgiving Day feast,
its fate for future meals hangs in the balance. The Food and Drug
Administration is on the verge of approving the first genetically
engineered fish for human consumption: an Atlantic salmon crossed with
the genes of two other fish to make it grow twice as quickly as a normal
If the FDA approves the fish, it may not even be labeled as genetically
engineered. Consumers would have no way of knowing whether they were
eating a natural salmon or a mutant farmed fish whose impact on human
health and the environment is still largely unknown. The last day for
public comment is Monday. Comments can be submitted at
www.regulations.gov, docket No. FDA-2010-N-0385.
A federal bill that would ban the production of genetically engineered
fish (HR 6265) was recently introduced to put the brakes on the FDA's
runaway process. Sacramento Rep. Doris Matsui should take a stand and
co-sponsor this bill.
It is not just seafood-loving consumers who should worry about the
future of their next salmon fillet if genetically engineered farmed
salmon are OK'd. Our local salmon and the communities that depend on
them, would be at risk, too.
Pacific Coast fisheries have been in a state of crisis for several
years. The number of salmon in the Sacramento River fell from 800,000 in
2002 to under 40,000 in 2009. Up and down the West Coast, commercial
salmon fisheries have closed for the last few years, costing an
estimated 23,000 jobs and $2.8 billion in lost revenue.
Farmed salmon already threaten wild stocks, escaping by the millions
each year from ocean pens. There, they compete for resources, spread
disease and reduce biodiversity. Genetically engineered salmon could be
even more dangerous to wild fish, as their quick growth makes them more
voracious and aggressive (think salmon on steroids) and more likely to
outcompete wild fish for food.
In a letter sent to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg in September, 14
California legislators registered deep concern that "approval (of
AquaBounty's petition) will lead to numerous other applications to grow
this and other genetically modified fish. ... California's wild salmon
runs are at historical lows and are not capable of withstanding an
additional assault that could come from escaped genetically modified
farmed salmon in the future."
The legislators also point out that California law prohibits the rearing
of genetically engineered salmon or any transgenic fish in our ocean
waters. FDA approval could pre-empt California from enforcing this law.
Even if it did not, flooding the market with genetically engineered
farmed salmon raised elsewhere would undercut local producers of wild
Pacific Coast salmon -- much like cheap farmed shrimp from foreign
operations has driven the few sustainable, local shrimperies left in the
United States toward bankruptcy.
Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer have sent letters to the FDA
expressing concern over the FDA's shoddy approval process of genetically
Experts, including scientists at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
believe that insufficient research has been done on the risks of raising
or eating genetically engineered salmon. The FDA only considered studies
conducted by AquaBounty or its contractors, not independent scientists.
The rapid approval of genetically engineered salmon would open the
floodgates for other transgenic food animals. It would also reduce
political pressure to restore our natural salmon runs. But we must
restore them: their health is critical to our fishing communities, our
economy, Pacific tribal cultures and our state's biodiversity.
It would be a mistake for our legislators to allow the approval of
genetically engineered salmon, particularly at a time when our
unemployment rate is at an all-time high and efforts to restore our wild
salmon fisheries are in full force.
Matsui sits on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which allocates
funding for the FDA. She has an especially important role to play in
protecting our health and the critical salmon habitat that helps define
the Sacramento region. She can lead on this issue by co-sponsoring HR
6265 and by directing the FDA to develop a robust process for
considering genetically engineered animal applications.
Our fisheries are nearing the point of no return. We need federal and
state investment in their restoration, not a science experiment that
uses our plates -- and our environment -- as a Petri dish.#
/Noelle Ferdon is senior organizer with the consumer advocacy group Food
& Water Watch. Rick Guerrero is president of the Green Democratic Club
of Sacramento County./
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