FDA Approves GMO Salmon Despite Widespread Opposition

by David Pinsky

November 20, 2015

The ruling poses a threat to endangered wild salmon and leaves consumers in the dark about the origins of their seafood.

Wild Alaskan salmon.

Wild Alaskan salmon.

© Gavin Newman / Greenpeace

This week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made history by approving the first genetically modified (GMO) animal for human consumption — GMO salmon. Despite a massive outcry from the public, environmental groups, and major supermarkets, the FDA sided with biotech company AquaBounty by approving the sale of GMO salmon. Approximately 2 million people filed public comments with the FDA in opposition to this decision, the largest number of comments the FDA has ever received on such an action.

The salmon eggs AquaBounty is producing are genetically engineered to produce a growth hormone. This means GMO salmon will grow faster than their non-GMO counterparts, and the aquaculture industry can grow more salmon in less time.

While AquaBounty says it’s safe, the risk to wild salmon is real. Escapes of farmed salmon from cages are common, and the escape of GMO salmon could result in the genetic contamination of already stressed wild Atlantic stocks if interbreeding were to take place. These frankenfish could also displace wild fish populations, compete for food and disrupt natural aquatic food webs and ecosystems.

Not only is this is a problem for the environment, it’s a problem for consumers. Americans and Canadians alike have made it clear that they are strongly opposed to eating GMO fish. In Canada, conservation organizations are taking the government to court over its decision to approve GMO salmon. Here in the United States, California has already banned GMO salmon because of the threats it poses wild salmon, and more than 9,000 grocery stores nationwide have committed to not sourcing GMO salmon.

While shoppers can trust retailers like Whole Foods, Hy-Vee, Target, ALDI, Trader Joe’s, Meijer, and Giant Eagle not to sell GMO salmon, some big questions remain. Who will sell GMO salmon, and will consumers know it’s been tampered with when they’re in the seafood aisle? Buyer beware: the FDA does not require this new health experiment to be labeled.

The fact that our government is allowing big corporations to maximize profits at the expense of the environment and consumer choice shows just how broken our food system has become.

The good news is that you can help by wielding your consumer power.

Check out our sustainable seafood shopping guide to find out your grocery store’s policy on GMO salmon and get informed about what you buy.

David Pinsky

By David Pinsky

David authors Greenpeace USA’s annual seafood sustainability report for the nation’s largest supermarkets, holding major companies accountable and shifting seafood practices that have global impacts on our oceans.

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