It’s a cold day in LA when the Los Angeles Times comes out in favor of biotechnology.
Although the temperature has averaged about 76 degrees this week down in sunny Southern California, the LA Times surprisingly ran an editorial last week titled, “Science and salmon” that rebuked a group of eight [actually 11] senators from salmon-fishing states who are demanding that the Food and Drug Administration stop spending money to study whether genetically engineered salmon are safe—thus preventing the commercial introduction of the GE fish into the marketplace.
“There’s plenty to debate [with GE salmon],” the newspaper cautioned,“but squelching scientific inquiry isn’t the answer.”
The senators are warning the FDA that they will pursue legislation—which has already passed in the House—to keep the FDA from funding further studies to determine whether GE salmon are a threat to the environment or to the health of consumers.
“People tend to respect and believe in science—until it tells them something they didn’t want to hear,” the editorial stated. “Thus President George W. Bush clung to his billion-dollar-a-year Reading First program even after a study by his administration showed that it wasn’t improving students’ reading abilities. Senators from states where the gray wolf was reintroduced successfully pushed for legislation delisting it as an endangered species; it didn’t matter what the Interior Department had determined.”
Words of wisdom, and from a most unlikely source, since the LA Times has been notorious in the past for pounding the drum on such issues as the ban on all non-ambulatory cattle in the food chain (during the BSE scare) and urging a zero tolerance policy for microbial pathogens in raw meat products (pretty much all the time).
Meanwhile, the GE salmon saga continues, with the Organic Consumers Association and the Union of Concerned Scientists leading the charge to demonize the GE fish, which grow more rapidly than conventional salmon. Those groups—along with other activists like Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, and the Pew Environment Group—have pushed a trio of tactics to gin up both public and political disapproval for the as-yet commercialized salmon, namely:
- That the GE salmon contain a “Trojan gene” that would potentially destroy native salmon populations
- That the GE fish pose a risk of increased allergenicity to consumers
- That the environmental impact of fish farming in general is unacceptably high