“Is your salmon going to come with a side of growth hormones?”
That’s the headline of an activist campaign spearheaded by the Environmental Working Group and the Center for Food Safety aimed at garnering signatures on an e-petition to the Food and Drug Administration to stop the agency’s imminent approval of a variety of farm-raised salmon bioengineered to grow faster than its wild cousins.
The statement is wrong on several levels—blatantly so.
Calling the GE salmon “dangerous and unnecessary,” the petition demands that FDA “conduct further assessments of the environmental impact and potential health and food safety risks of AquaBounty’s genetically engineered salmon.” That implies that there are food-safety, public health or environmental issues that might be uncovered, if only the government would require more “testing.”
Now, what would those tests consist of? How can food-safety issues be identified in advance? If that were possible, we’d never experience any food-borne illness—ever—excepting those outbreaks due to negligence or sabotage, which is rarely the case. Most food-safety problems are uncovered after the fact, not in the lab. And the majority of them occur despite state-of-the-art preventive measures already in place.
So more time on task in some lab somewhere won’t address any (alleged) food-safety threats posed by farmed salmon.
Second, the question of whether farmed salmon—bioengineered or conventionally raised—is unnecessary. No, it’s not necessary, as long as people worldwide stop eating it, and if physicians and nutritionists stop recommending that people dump red meat and switch to “healthy seafood.” As long as the world’s burgeoning population collectively decides to forego eating salmon, then no—we don’t need to worry about aquaculture.
Those are all pretty big “ifs,” however.
The hidden motive
All that noise is really a smokescreen for the real issue with which anti-GM activists punch people in the gut, and that’s the Frankenfoods claim. It all comes down to fomenting vague fears about this “unknown food,” this scary “transgenic animal” that mad scientists, working in tandem with greedy capitalists, are planning to unleash on unsuspecting consumers.
“[FDA] is on track to approve AquaBounty AquaAdvantave transgenic salmon—the first genetically engineered animal intended as food for humans,” the anti GM petition stated. “This new hybrid salmon will combine DNA from Atlantic salmon, Chinook salmon and the eel-like ocean pout. There’s no proof that eating these genetically engineered salmon is safe. What we do know is the fish will produce enough growth hormones year-round to grow at twice their natural rate.”