Whole Foods Market, Aldi and Trader Joe’s Co. are among retailers who have pledged not to sell genetically engineered salmon or other seafood, according to a new advocacy campaign.
The Campaign for Genetically Engineered-Free Seafood – a coalition formed by the Consumers Union, Friends of the Earth and other groups – announced Wednesday that food retailers representing 2,000 U.S. stores have vowed not to sell GM seafood if it is approved in the United States. The announcement was made as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration appears close to approving genetically engineered salmon from AquaBounty Technologies, Maynard, Mass.
In December the FDA announced a draft environmental assessment indicating the genetically engineered salmon from AquaBounty – called AquaAdvantage – would not have a significant impact on the U.S. environment. The salmon would be farmed in Panama.
AquaBounty formally applied for approval of the GM salmon in 1995. Last month the public comment period was supposed to end, but the FDA extended the deadline to late April. If approved, the salmon would become the first genetically engineered animal to enter America’s human food supply.
Journalist Emily Anthes described AquaAdvantage in The New York Times as “an Atlantic salmon that carries two foreign bits of DNA: a growth hormone gene from the Chinook salmon that is under the control of a genetic ‘switch’ from the ocean pout, an eel-like fish that lives in the chilly deep. Normally, Atlantic salmon produce growth hormone only in the warm summer months, but these genetic adjustments let the fish churn it out year round. As a result, the AquAdvantage salmon typically reach their adult size in a year and a half, rather than three years.”
AquaBounty says the faster-growing “AquaAdvantage Salmon” saves time and resources, and that the products are safe. Critics claim such GM products are not sufficiently tested for safety, carry allergy risks and should be labeled.
“We won’t sell genetically engineered fish because we don’t believe it is sustainable or healthy,” Trudy Bialic from PCC Natural Markets in Washington State told Reuters.
Whole Foods Market, a 335-store organic and natural food chain, announced earlier this month that by 2018 it will require all products in its stores to be labeled indicating whether they contain GMOs.
But scientists, including the FDA’s experts, have concluded that AquaAdvantage is just as safe to eat as conventional salmon and that, raised in isolated tanks, it poses little risk to wild populations, Anthes wrote in The Times.
“We should all be rooting for the agency to do the right thing and approve the AquaAdvantage salmon,” Anthes said. “It’s a healthy and relatively cheap food source that, as global demand for fish increases, can take some pressure off our wild fish stocks. But most important, a rejection will have a chilling effect on biotechnological innovation in this country.”