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Has the FDA gone completely mad? Why are they trying to open the flood gates to genetically engineered (GE) salmon—a move that will go down in history as one of the most asinine and dangerous ever made by our government? What's it going to take for them to actually start protecting public health?
Frankenfish can promote disease
The FDA is reviewing data submitted by AquaBounty, the company that spliced a growth hormone gene into Atlantic salmon, forcing it to grow up to five times faster, and reach market size in about 18 months instead of 3 years. But according to the evidence, their buff salmon might have higher levels of a cancer promoting hormone IGF-1, more antibiotics, and more of a potentially life-threatening allergen(s).
The FDA failed to learn their lesson with their idiotic approval of genetically engineered bovine growth hormone. It also has higher levels of IGF-1 and more antibiotics. Now it's condemned by the American Public Health Association and the American Nurses Association, banned in most other countries, and has been banished by most US dairies. Even Wal-Mart won't allow the stuff into their milk.
The GE soy and corn on the market, which the FDA continues to pretend is just the same as the natural stuff, also has higher levels of allergens, and has been linked to numerous disorders. Now the American Academy of Environmental Medicine condemned genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and urged all physicians to prescribe non-GMO diets. "GMO-Free" is one of the fastest growing health claims among US brands for the past two years, and a tipping point of consumer rejection of all GE ingredients appears to be just over the horizon.
Then there is the threat of Frankenfish escaping into the wild. Here too, the FDA ignores the lessons from GE crops which, in spite of early assurances to the contrary, have been contaminating non-GE crops and wild relatives all over the world for more than a decade. Their self-propagating genetic pollution is irreversible; it can outlast the effects of global warming and nuclear waste. But somehow escaped GE salmon carry an even greater hazard.
Frankenfish can wipe out natural salmon
According to a Purdue University computer model that tracked the effects of releasing just 60 Frankenfish (not salmon) into a population of 60,000, there was a shocking complete extinction in just 40 fish generations. Apparently their bigger size, which attracted mates more easily, combined with a slight reduction in survival rates, was a killer combination.
Canadian scientists engineered their own set of fast growing salmon and tested their behavior in tanks with other fish. When there was sufficient food, all was fine. When food stocks decreased, the Frankenfish freaked. They became cannibals, attacking and killing other fish—whether GE or natural. Their unexpected behavior resulted in population crashes or complete extinctions in the fish tanks. The study also suggested that if released, these ravenous aggressive salmon would pursue and consume other types of fish.
I'm not sure which scenario is worse: The complete extinction of salmon, or gangs of voracious mutant freaks scouring the ocean, attacking anything that can feed their rapidly-expanding, always-hungry bodies. (Heck, let's just give the fish automatic weapons.)
Never mind that the GE AquAdvantage salmon are supposed to be grown in inland tanks and are supposed to be sterile. In reality, they won't all be sterile; and there are numerous ways that these salmon, whose eggs will regularly be shipped from Prince Edward Island, Canada to growing tanks in Panama, can escape into the ocean. It only takes one!
Corporate interests and politics run the FDA show
US consumers have been clear for years that we don't want Frankenfish, Frankenpigs, Frankenmosquitoes, Frankenanything that walks, flies, slithers, or swims. And most Americans are now uneasy about the Frankencrops already growing in our fields. So who is clamoring for GE salmon? Who's getting the FDA to push open the doors to GE animals against public opinion?
Thank you Union of Concerned Scientists for the answer. Your September 12th survey of 1710 FDA employees explains who is really driving the bus at the agency. One staff member said, "Food safety has succumbed to the higher priority of global corporate profits." In fact, 38 percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that "public health has been harmed by agency practices that defer to business interests."
Another employee points to political interference: "I have been here for 26 years and it still amazes me . . . how politics filter down to the lowest levels of government."
So its corporate profits and politics. Anyone surprised? About 1 in 4 surveyed admit that they had personally experienced, either frequently or occasionally, "situations where corporate interests [or members of Congress, or special interests] have forced the withdrawal or significant modification of [an agency] policy or action designed to protect consumers or public health."
If there is one face that best captures the FDA's conflict-of-humanity's-interest, it would be Michael Taylor. Taylor is the US Food Safety Czar. You'd think that if there were significant safety concerns about the GE salmon, our Czar would step in to preserve and protect. Don't count on it.
Back when the first Bush White House had instructed the FDA to promote biotechnology, the agency created a special position for Taylor to be in charge. He had been the outside attorney for biotech giant Monsanto, where he had dreamed up a regulatory facade that would allow GMOs to be brought to market with maximum speed and minimum oversight. Then he took a position with the FDA where he could apparently implement it himself. His GMO policy falsely claimed that the agency was unaware of information showing GM foods to be different. On that basis, no testing or labeling was required. Years later, 44,000 documents made public from a lawsuit revealed that the consensus among FDA's own scientists was that GM foods were unsafe, and should be carefully tested for allergies, toxins, new diseases, and nutritional problems.
Soon after leaving the FDA, Michael Taylor went to work as Monsanto's vice president.
So the person who lied about GMO safety to push them on the market now sits above the folks that are looking at GE Salmon. Not a comforting thought.