Local news doesn’t always go deep into conservation issues, but check out this very thorough piece from Austin’s KVUE on the controversy surrounding genetically engineered salmon. They spoke to Ocean Conservancy’s George Leonard about the future of fish and the risks if FDA approves the fish for human consumption.
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.
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.
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:
Director of Strategic Initiatives George Leonard prepares his famous honey-glazed wild salmon.
I can’t wait for summer. Not for the warm beaches and suntan, but because of the barbecue. I’m not much of a chef, but I’m real good over a charcoal fire.
One of my favorite meals is honey-glazed wild salmon. And for the first time in four years, we’ll have a commercial salmon season this summer here in California. This means I’ll be able to support our local fishermen by deliberately purchasing sustainably caught, wild California salmon at many local markets.
These fish will be clearly labeled as to where they come from and how they were caught so there’s little risk that I’ll be buying a fish I don’t want – but that may soon change. Continue reading »