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The Blog Aquatic

News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy

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The People have Spoken: Massive Pushback to Genetically-Engineered Salmon

Posted On April 26, 2013 by

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. 

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Mark Lynas and GMOs: the Case of Genetically Engineered Salmon

Posted On January 16, 2013 by

When I was rambunctious kid, my mother always told me it was more effective to get someone’s attention with a whisper than a shout. Earlier this month, Mark Lynas, the well-known anti-GMO activist, got everyone’s attention by changing his long-held position on genetically-modified foods. But he didn’t scream it from the rooftops or otherwise perform a media-grabbing stunt like his famous pie-throwing incident. He calmly, thoughtfully, and yet forcefully explained in front of an academic audience in London how he had come to this change of heart.

In short, Lynas maintained he “had discovered science”. Over the course of an hour, he minced no words while eviscerating what he called the anti-science NGO community that has long opposed the development and deployment of GE crops – and of which Lynas was a leading figure for over a decade. The foundation of his argument was that there is now a scientific consensus that there are no health effects of genetically-engineered crops and after 3 trillion meals eaten with no demonstrable evidence of harm, “the GMO debate is over”. While many have countered Lynas’ treatise, there remain a host of unanswered questions about the environmental risks of GE animals – especially fish – should this technology proliferate beyond plants. Scientific consensus has not yet emerged and it is needed if a skeptical public is to accept GE fish.

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The Seafood Seven? Senators Act to Delay FDA Ruling on GE Salmon

Posted On January 12, 2013 by

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.

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FDA Misses the Boat in Signaling Approval of Genetically Engineered Salmon

Posted On December 28, 2012 by

Just as I was getting ready to head out for my Christmas break last week, my email Inbox signals that the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released its recommendation to approve the first-ever, genetically engineered animal for human consumption. For those who track the FDA, they know this isn’t unusual – the agency often makes controversial rulings right before the holidays, when decision makers, media and the public are trying to have some well-deserved downtime with their families. It was a kind of an unwelcome, fishy Christmas surprise, nestled among the garland and mistletoe.

My latest piece for National Geographic explains just how dangerous this recommendation is and what Congress needs to do in the new year to make sure these controversial fish do not make it to the ocean. The U.S. is simply not equipped to deal with this scenario.

Read my blog post on National Geographic News Watch here.

A Requiem for Proposition 37? Not if Californians Vote “Yes” Tomorrow

Posted On November 5, 2012 by

Buzz around proposition 37 has grown steadily over the summer and is peaking now. Credit: Upwell

My latest post for National Geographic Ocean Views, about how an anti-Prop. 37 ad blitz from companies like Monsanto is threatening Californians’ right to know what they’re eating, is drawing lots of discussion. Here’s an excerpt from the post:

While Ocean Conservancy concludes we don’t have enough information about the impacts of GE fish to move forward yet, like many supporters of Prop. 37, we also strongly believe that GE salmon should be clearly labeled if the federal Food and Drug Administration approves it for sale.

Up until relatively recently, we were in good company with virtually twice as many California’s in support versus opposed to the initiative.

Then the money came in to play. Continue reading »

Genetically engineered organisms are in “hot water”

Posted On July 31, 2012 by

I’m pretty much a classic rock guy.  I grew up on the Stones, Springsteen, and Skynyrd.  But a new song caught my attention, as much for its message as its foot stomping beat.  The punk rock band “Hot Water Music” recently released a new single, “State ofGrace,” to bring attention to their concerns about the growing presence of genetically modified foods on our dinner plates. Give it a listen. It is a solid tune, but it’s also accompanied by a pretty edgy video that pushes the boundary of where science ends and art begins.  When I first watched it, my science side cringed but my artistic side was moved by the graphic images.

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Genetically engineered salmon: Shouldn’t our nation’s fish agency have a say in this?

Posted On May 24, 2012 by

Photo: Jumping Coho Salmon by LouLou Beavers

Within the last hour, there was a floor vote on an amendment to S.3187, the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act, put forth by Senator Lisa Murkowski from the state of Alaska. Why should you care? Because this has big implications for the future of fish in the ocean and on our dinner plates. To our disappointment, the amendment did not pass. But nearly 50 percent of the Senate supported Senator Murkowski’s efforts to protect our wild fish from the risks of genetically engineered fish. That alone is a strong statement.

If you aren’t up on the controversy, the FDA is considering approving the first ever, genetically engineered animal for human consumption. This animal is a fish – an engineered version of farmed Atlantic salmon – and that is why Ocean Conservancy and my ocean colleagues have been leading an effort to ensure all the hard questions are asked and answered before the fish is allowed on the market. Today, a group of environmental organizations wrote in support of Sen. Murkowski’s amendment. (.PDF)

You can help us in this fight by joining Ocean Conservancy and the Just Label It campaign to tell the FDA to require labeling for all GE food.

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