March 21, 2013

Further Rebuttals to GE Salmon

Jillian Fry

Jillian Fry

Project Director, Public Health & Sustainable Aquaculture Project

Center for a Livable Future

Who will sell GE salmon?

A couple weeks ago, the New York Times published an opinion piece (“Don’t Be Afraid of Genetic Modification,” by Emily Anthes) that advocates for swifter FDA approval of AquaBounty’s genetically engineered salmon and then goes on to argue that,Genetically engineered animals could do real good for the world.” Today, thankfully, the Times has published a letter to the editor rebutting that essay, penned by Colin O’Neil of the Center for Food Safety. We’re pleased that O’Neil has set the record straight, and that a conversation about genetically engineered foods is taking place.

In addition to the points made by O’Neil, we add our own points to the discussion:

Ms. Anthes’s opinion piece describes FDA’s consideration of AquaBounty’s genetically engineered salmon as a “rigorous review” that has dragged on too long, but readers should know this process has relied solely on data provided by AquaBounty, which contains small sample sizes, flawed methods, and inappropriate statistical analyses. In the first public comment period, FDA ignored experts’ advice to require a more comprehensive review process.

Genetically engineered farmed salmon may reach market weight faster than traditional farmed salmon, but increased production requires more feed and could lead to greater environmental impacts. Fish feed is made from small wild fish or industrially farmed soy, and contributes either to overfishing or agricultural pollution resulting in “dead zones” devoid of
sea life.

Unfortunately, Ms. Anthes falsely equates the length of the review for this precedent setting case as a reflection of a high quality, rigorous process.

On a hopeful note, Whole Foods, Trader Joes, and Aldi have pledged not to sell genetically engineered salmon.

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