Jeffrey Smith, whose work we’ve been featuring for the past week, has posted a petition at the website of the Institute for Responsible Technology. Instead of being addressed to a government agency, as many petitions are, this one is addressed to members of the food service industry.
Smith’s reasoning is that the FDA has already proven itself to be operating with a clear pro-biotech agenda. In fact, in his article on the approval of GE salmon, he details the backgrounds of the GMO advisory committee to the FDA, the majority of whom either recently held a position with a biotech corporation, or currently hold a position that directly profits from genetic engineering. So, the likelihood of their being swayed by the concerned voices of the regular people who will be eating their salmon is slim. Instead, Smith hopes to create a movement within the food industry to reject GE foods directly, and voluntarily label their food “non-GMO.”
Personally, I don’t think of salmon as food anyway. But, even if I did, I wouldn’t want anything to do with these Frankenfish. The health risks Smith details in his article include increased and potentially lethal allergic reactions, increased use of antibiotics and increased exposure to IGF-1, a cancer-causing hormone also found in milk from cows treated with rBGH. Even though I’m not worried about having to pick out salmon at the grocery store, I am worried about the impact of these fish on the health of the oceans.
Aqua Bounty, the company that makes the GE salmon, claims the fish will be confined in net pens, and not released into the wild, but that assurance doesn’t hold water. Since 1996, almost 6,000,000 farmed salmon have escaped from net pens in Washington waters alone, following storms or accidents that damage nets. The fish are also intended to be sterile, but according to testimony submitted by Monterey Bay Aquarium to the FDA, the method is imperfect, and cannot guarantee that all fish will be incapable of reproducing.
If GE salmon were released into the wild, some studies cited by Smith suggest that wild salmon could become extinct in as little as 40 generations. The GE salmon are engineered to grow up to five times as fast as regular salmon, which means other salmon are more likely to select them as a mate. It was also observed in a study of confined salmon, that when food became scarce the GE salmon cannibalized other salmon, both GE and non-GE. It’s possible that under adverse conditions, GE salmon could become predators of other fish, which would have unpredictable and potentially disastrous results for the delicate balance of the ocean food chain.
Whatever the negative consequences turn out to be, no one has suggested that GE salmon have any potential benefits for anyone other than the corporations making them. So, if you do a quick cost/benefit analysis, it shouldn’t be a tough call. Cost: potential threat to health of oceans, other salmon and people. Benefit: increased profits for biotech corporations. Conclusion: no thanks!