GMO Salmon: What’s the Catch?

This week, a California State Assembly committee will vote on a bill (AB 88) to require labeling of genetically modified (GMO) fish. In response to the potential FDA approval of GMO salmon, California must take this opportunity to protect state consumers’ right to know what is in our food.

Take action! Call on your state Assembly Member to vote “YES” on AB 88.

Proponents say we need cheaper, faster growing GMO salmon. But there’s a catch: there is little evidence that the gene altered fish are necessary, safe to eat, or harmless to the environment. On the other hand, scientists say there are reasons to be concerned:

  • GMO fish could unexpectedly trigger new food allergies or have altered levels of important nutrients;
  • Accidental releases from fish farms are common; in the wild, GMO fish could outcompete and/or spread diseases to natural fish populations.

This latter point was highlighted last month, when reports revealed that the company intending to bring GMO salmon to market had an outbreak of a serious fish virus at its salmon rearing facility in 2009. This outbreak was not discussed at FDA’s 2010 public hearing on the GMO salmon, and the agency has not revealed if it knew about the problem (and covered it up) or if the company hid the information and sought approval based on false assurances of safety. CEH joined nine consumer, environmental and fishery protection organizations in calling on FDA to suspend approval of GMO salmon pending review of this new information.

Numerous recent polls have consistently shown two things about Americans and GMO foods: we want them labeled, and if labeled, we would avoid eating them. An October 2010 poll by the media giants NPR/Reuters found that 93% of Americans want labeling of GMO food, while just 35% said they would be willing to eat GMO fish.

But since the FDA is refusing to protect our right to know, individual states must act. California must take the lead. Urge your Assembly Member to say “YES” to labels on GMO fish.