The Blog Aquatic » gmo http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Tue, 19 Aug 2014 21:00:01 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Video: GE Salmon and the Future of Fish http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/02/05/video-ge-salmon-and-the-future-of-fish/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/02/05/video-ge-salmon-and-the-future-of-fish/#comments Tue, 05 Feb 2013 18:25:28 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=4497

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.

Time is running out to stop genetically engineered salmon from reaching our grocery stores. Under the cover of the December holidays, the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made crystal clear that it believes genetically engineered animals should be allowed in our food system. A required public comment period happening right now.  Join us in sending a clear message to the FDA that GE salmon is a threat to us, our ocean and the very future of fish.

UPDATE: The FDA has received such a high volume of comments that they have extended the comment period.  There is still a chance to tell FDA to take a time out on GE salmon!

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Mark Lynas and GMOs: the Case of Genetically Engineered Salmon http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/01/16/mark-lynas-and-gmos-the-case-of-genetically-engineered-salmon/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/01/16/mark-lynas-and-gmos-the-case-of-genetically-engineered-salmon/#comments Wed, 16 Jan 2013 18:25:39 +0000 George Leonard http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=4269

Credit: Salmon Photo by Joy Prescott / Shutterstock

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.

Lynas’ criticism of NGOs stung, for in all we do at Ocean Conservancy, we pride ourselves in being science-based, including having practicing scientists on our staff and respected scientists on our leadership team and Board of Directors. With science at the foundation, our team of policy experts, lawyers and communications professionals works on some of the biggest ocean challenges of our time. Among others, these include overfishing, ocean acidification, marine debris and the future of our seafood supply.

But what about GMOs and our government’s recent recommendation to approve the first-ever, genetically engineered animal for human consumption?  Since 2010, Ocean Conservancy has been a vocal advocate for additional science before this engineered version of farmed Atlantic salmon is allowed in our seafood supply. We have also advocated that the fish should be labeled (if approved), so consumers can decide for themselves whether they want to consume it. Unlike Lynas, who rails against those who see evidence that GMO plants pose a health risk, our focus instead has been on the environmental consequences should GE salmon escape into the sea. Leading academic scientists, some at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and just last week, seven member of the U.S. Senate, conclude there is cause for concern.

Nonetheless, the federal Food and Drug Administration has recommended approval. The clock is now ticking, with public comments due to the FDA by February 25.  At Ocean Conservancy, we will continue to advocate for a full Environmental Impact Statement – including a state-of-the-art quantitative risk assessment – before the fish is approved. Given the uncharted territory that GE salmon represent for the future of seafood, a commitment to more robust science is essential if the public is to have confidence that these new fish won’t threaten our ocean.

One might think that Lynas’ conversion at the Oxford Farming Conference would obviate the need for further debate about GE salmon. Indeed, he concluded his talk by stating “now is the time for you (the anti-GM lobby) to get out of the way and let the rest of us get on with feeding the world sustainably”.

For fish, especially, I remain unconvinced. And like many others, I want additional scientific analysis before GE salmon is served up at my local fishmonger.

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FDA Misses the Boat in Signaling Approval of Genetically Engineered Salmon http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/12/28/fda-misses-the-boat-in-signaling-approval-of-genetically-engineered-salmon/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/12/28/fda-misses-the-boat-in-signaling-approval-of-genetically-engineered-salmon/#comments Fri, 28 Dec 2012 15:25:33 +0000 George Leonard http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=4024

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.

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A Requiem for Proposition 37? Not if Californians Vote “Yes” Tomorrow http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/11/05/a-requiem-for-proposition-37-not-if-californians-vote-yes-tomorrow/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/11/05/a-requiem-for-proposition-37-not-if-californians-vote-yes-tomorrow/#comments Mon, 05 Nov 2012 17:25:27 +0000 George Leonard http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=3426

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. With a huge war chest from Monsanto and many of the major food production companies, a blitz of ads has rapidly reduced support by 9 percentage points over a matter of days. While nearly every poll ever done on labeling of GMOs has shown upwards of 80 percent support for the basic right to know how one’s food is produced, Californians are now turning their backs on this innate desire, largely in response to these ads.

This increase in funding by the opposition shows how marketing and big bucks can truly influence voters. If you’ve ever wondered why politicians spend huge sums of money on ads, it is because they work. Prop. 37 is a prime example.

See what everyone is saying and weigh in over at National Geographic, and if you live in California, don’t forget to vote YES on Proposition 37 at the polls tomorrow. The future of food depends on it.

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The Benefits of Knowing Where Your Fish Comes From http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/04/26/the-benefits-of-knowing-where-your-fish-comes-from/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/04/26/the-benefits-of-knowing-where-your-fish-comes-from/#comments Thu, 26 Apr 2012 18:09:31 +0000 George Leonard http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=259

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. For the last 18 months, the FDA has debated whether to approve the first ever, genetically engineered animal for human consumption. That animal turns out to be a fish. And not just any fish. It would be a genetically-engineered version of farmed Atlantic salmon and it is likely to be sold alongside wild California salmon.

The FDA says it’s unlikely to require the fish be labeled as “genetically engineered”, meaning consumers would have little way to know if they are buying GE salmon.  From concerns over environmental impacts, product safety and healthfulness to ethical or religious concerns, or dietary restrictions, people should have the right to know what they are putting in their bodies.

At Ocean Conservancy, we believe consumers have a fundamental right to know how their food is produced. We’ve supported mandatory requirements to label GE fish since this fish fight hit the stage in September 2010. The potential approval of GE salmon has created a firestorm of controversy, from the halls of Congress to the fishing communities on the west coast.

Congress held a hearing last fall (view my testimony here) and federal and state legislation has been introduced to mandate labeling of GE fish. At the same time, a grassroots effort hatched to pressure FDA to label all foods that contain GE ingredients.  Want to learn more? Click here to see our Infographic.

I’m going to keep my eye out for clearly labeled, wild California salmon this summer.  Being able to enjoy this gift from the sea is just one of the benefits of knowing where your fish comes from.

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