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Fishing for GM Salmon

Friday, September 17, 2010 | Read Comments

Fishing for GM Salmon

It's that time of year again, when the FDA gathers its experts to decide what new horror to unleash into the food supply. This year it's genetically modified salmon, a "frankenfish" pumped up with extra growth hormone genes that make it rapidly grow into a kind of super-Schwarzenegger creature that's triple the size of a regular salmon.

And you're supposed to eat this, by the way. In fact, the FDA will almost certainly allow this to be sold without any warning labels, so now when you buy salmon at the store, you'll have no way to tell whether it's normal salmon or frankenfish GM salmon.

This is just the latest form of "food quackery" to receive the FDA's endorsement. Well, technically the FDA hasn't officially decided to approve it yet, but FDA officials have already announced -- ahead of the public meeting -- that they believe GM salmon is safe. It's a good bet they intend to allow it to enter the food supply.

Genetically modified salmon is "is as safe as food from conventional Atlantic salmon," according to an FDA statement on its website. "There is a reasonable certainty of no harm from consumption of food from this animal."

But even if that's true, that's not the only worry here: The other major concern is about the environmental impact of GM salmon escaping to the wild (or their eggs escaping) and genetically polluting the world's salmon stocks. Now, sure, the company creating these frankenfish promises that will never happen. They insist on it. But gee, have you ever heard of industrial accidents? That's where things go wrong that everybody promised would never go wrong. Bhopal, India comes to mind. Or Chernobyl.

There are seemingly countless cases where companies that promised nothing would go wrong end up apologizing when things went terribly wrong. How can we be sure GM salmon won't one day turn into another large-scale disaster?

One way would be to conduct safety testing before pursuing full-scale production. But that isn't being done. To my knowledge, there are no rigorous environmental or human health safety tests being conducted on GM salmon whatsoever.

So, in effect, we are the experiment. The FDA, if it approves GM salmon, will be launching a brand new game called "let's play genetic roulette with the whole world and see what happens."

It's a stupid way to proceed with something as potentially dangerous as genetic pollution because if it escapes into the wild, it is irreversible. You can't take it back.

Tell the FDA what you think

The FDA's three-day panel starts this weekend! Sign up to attend the meeting and express your thoughts on the matter at the following link:
http://www.fedmeetings.net/common/r...

You can also write the FDA at:
Division of Dockets Management
Food and Drug Administration
5630 Fishers Lane, Room 1061
Rockville, MD 20852

Be sure to reference Docket No. FDA-2010-N-0385.

In the mean time, if you see a giant piece of salmon flesh in the grocery store that looks more like a side of beef from a 1,000 pound cow, you may want to avoid it.

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