GM salmon matures twice as fast and grows almost twice as big as wild Atlantic salmon. (Photo: Food & Water Watch)
Consumers Union worries GE salmon is unsafe
Thursday, September 23, 2010, 03:40 (GMT + 9)
The Consumers Union (CU) presented its comments on genetically engineered (GE) salmon labelling at a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hearing and said the salmon could prove dangerous to consumers. The union also said it disagrees with the FDA’s assertion that genetic modification (GM) does not inherently comprise a “material” difference under the law and with FDA’s definition of what makes up a “material” difference.
Aquabounty Technologies Inc’s AquAdvantage Salmon mature twice as fast and grow almost twice as big as wild Atlantic salmon as its DNA is injected with the genes of Pacific salmon and an eel-like fish. Tests have shown their meat is safe for human consumption, and the FDA thus far has sided with the company’s product.
Regardless, CU believes that GE salmon should be labelled as such so consumers can know whether they are purchasing a GE animal.
The union found in a nationwide poll that 95 per cent of respondents said they thought food from GE animals should be labelled and 78 per cent strongly agreed.
The independent panel of veterinary scientists hired by the FDA to conduct the hearing this week urged the FDA to run further studies of the GE salmon before authorising its sale in stores.
According to CU, two legal rationales exist for requiring labelling of: GE constitutes a “material fact” and the New Animal Drug (NAD) and/or its expression product comprises a food ingredient. Thus, CU believes that the process of GM constitutes a “material fact” and therefore said fact must be included on the label.
Further, even if the FDA concludes that GE does not make up a “material fact,” it ought to demand labelling because the inserted genetic material for the chinook salmon growth hormone gene and the resulting expression product(s) (e.g, chinook growth hormone) are food ingredients, because the drug itself (e.g. the genetic construct) is synthetic rather than “an act of nature.”
Finally, CU said the FDA ought to mandate labelling to make sure that any unexpected or unintended effects of engineering this salmon - the first GE animal to request a NAD Approval -receive the FDA’s attention. This kind of labelling is authorised by the international guidelines created by the Codex Alimentarius Commission.
Certain drugs approved by FDA as safe have recently been found to cause unexpected health effects only after they were widely used by US consumers. CU thus believes that it is indispensable to label a GE animal so any unexpected effects will be recognised and the health of consumers protected.
Environmental groups are also concerned.
"We don't know if it's safe for humans to eat and the only research that has been done was done by the company," said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch in Washington, DC, HealthDayNews reports. "The FDA is an under-resourced agency that has had so much trouble with the regulatory system for foods - we've had tainted eggs, poisonous peanuts and other contaminations - and is now taking on something in a very non-transparent way."
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- FDA to hold public hearing on GE salmon
- GM salmon faces widespread opposition
By Natalia Real