Ocean Currents » Food and Drug Administration http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Tue, 24 Nov 2015 20:06:43 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 The People have Spoken: Massive Pushback to Genetically-Engineered Salmon http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/04/26/the-people-have-spoken-massive-pushback-to-genetically-engineered-salmon/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/04/26/the-people-have-spoken-massive-pushback-to-genetically-engineered-salmon/#comments Sat, 27 Apr 2013 00:02:50 +0000 George Leonard http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=5576

Two and half years ago, genetically engineered salmon exploded on the national stage.  April marked another big milestone in the ensuing debate about whether genetically engineered animals will be allowed in the U.S. food supply.  This isn’t some esoteric, pointy-headed debate.  It really is about the future of food and what you feed your family. And as an ocean conservation organization, we are especially concerned about the consequences for the future of seafood, wild fish and healthy oceans.

The Food and Drug Administration’s final comment period has now closed on the agency’s draft decision to approve an engineered variant of farmed Atlantic salmon.  We hope you let your voice heard by submitting comments to the agency. 

If you joined the chorus of voices, you are certainly  in good company. As the deadline  approached, there was a massive outpouring of concern from nearly every sector of society.  Among others, these include:

  • Nearly 1.5 million members of the public have written to FDA requesting that the agency complete a full Environmental Impact Statement before a decision to approve the fish is made.  It is worth noting that the agency has refused to do this to date even though this request has been in front of the agency since their plans went public in September 2010.
  • Dr. Anne R. Kapuscinski, a world-renowned expert on the environmental risks of GE fish, submitted to FDA a scathing review  that essentially showed that the agency had ignored all the recommendations she made back in September 2010. Given she literally wrote the book on risk assessment of GE fish, it is stunning that agency officials have simply looked the other way.
  • Congress has joined the debate. Both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have introduced legislation on GE salmon.  The bills would require the FDA to fully evaluate the risks of GE fish to wild fish and healthy oceans as well as require labeling of any GE food, so consumers simply can make informed purchasing decisions in the marketplace.  A group of 12 Senators has also written directly to FDA Commissioner Hamburg expressing their concerns over the approval process.  And in an important symbolic gesture earlier this spring, the full Senate passed by voice vote a non-binding budget amendment that would require labeling of GE fish.
  • Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the market for GE fish may be drying up before the fish even arrives at store shelves.  Major retailers like Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and other retailers representing over 2000 stores across the United States have pledged to not sell the fish, even if the government approves it.  As every business knows, you need a willing buyer for your product if you are going to stay in business.  It increasingly looks like a market for GE fish won’t exist in the U.S. – unless the FDA does the necessary analysis to rigorously show little risk of harm to consumers or the environment.

Shortly before the deadline, we submitted our comments to the FDA – all 37 pages of them.  I welcome you to read about our concerns here.  And I encourage you to follow me on Twitter at @GeorgeHLeonard. 

 While the comment period has closed, this isn’t the end of the debate about the future of fish.


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The Seafood Seven? Senators Act to Delay FDA Ruling on GE Salmon http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/01/12/senators-act-to-delay-fda-ruling-on-gesalmon/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/01/12/senators-act-to-delay-fda-ruling-on-gesalmon/#comments Sat, 12 Jan 2013 19:15:00 +0000 George Leonard http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=4202

Salmon jump. From Nagem R.’s Flickr Stream. Used under a Creative Commons License.

If you missed the Food and Drug Administration’s controversial ruling during the holidays – to recommend approval of an engineered variant of farmed Atlantic salmon as the first-ever, genetically engineered animal allowed for human consumption – you aren’t the only one.

It came as a surprise to conservationists, media and policymakers alike, and the ruling opened a surprisingly short public comment period that closes on February 25.

Thankfully, seven U.S. senators are standing up for the ocean and for healthy, sustainable seafood by sending a letter to FDA commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg today requesting a 60-day extension to the public comment period. The senators rightly believe that the public deserves more time to adequately review and comment on the FDA’s lengthy, yet intentionally narrow, report that will have far-reaching implications for the future of fish and the health of the seafood on our plates and in our ocean.

Ocean Conservancy commends the strong stance taken by Senators Begich and Murkowski of Alaska, Senators Murray and Cantwell of Washington State, Senators Wyden and Merkley of Oregon, and Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland.

Even though FDA had previously received 400,000 comments in opposition to genetically-engineered salmon, their final recommendation based on the narrow environmental assessment  is that this “Frankenfish” – as many people refer to it – will result in “no significant impact” on the environment.

In their letter to the FDA this week, the senators state their concerns once again about genetically-engineered salmon, calling it a “controversial and unsustainable seafood product” that could potentially escape into U.S. waters. And they promise to introduce legislation in the new Congress calling for a more comprehensive environmental review and “labeling of any such products sold in the U.S. so consumers are aware of what is on their dinner plates.”

My last piece for National Geographic explains just how flawed the FDA’s recommendation is and what Congress should to do in the New Year to make sure these controversial fish do not make it to the ocean. At present, the U.S. simply does not have in place the regulatory structure needed to address the myriad of issues posed by genetically-engineered fish.

Until it does, Congress should work to pass Senator Begich’s PEGASUS Act or similar legislation that requires FDA to take the environmental risks seriously before approving GE fish.

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