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FDA’s approval of GMO salmon denounced

Posted Nov. 19, 2015 / Posted by: Kate Colwell

More than 60 grocery chains, majority of consumers already reject “Frankenfish”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today scientists, environmental and consumer groups and fishermen lambasted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval of genetically engineered salmon created by AquaBounty Technologies Inc. (ABTX:LSE), a majority owned subsidiary of synthetic biology company Intrexon (NYSE: XON). This is the first-ever genetically engineered animal approved for human consumption despite widespread public outcry, risks to wild salmon and a faulty assessment based on incomplete company data. 

Despite this approval, a large segment of the market has already rejected genetically engineered salmon. More than 60 grocery store chains representing more than 9000 stores across the U.S. have made commitments to not sell the GMO salmon, including Safeway, Kroger, Target, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Aldi and many others.

“Despite FDA’s flawed and irresponsible approval of the first genetically engineered animal for human consumption, it’s clear that there is no place in the U.S. market for genetically engineered salmon.” said Lisa Archer, Food and Technology program director at Friends of the Earth. “People don’t want to eat it and grocery stores are refusing to sell it.”

75 percent of respondents to a recent New York Times poll said they would not eat genetically engineered salmon, and 1.8 million people sent letters to the FDA opposing approval of the so-called “frankenfish.” 

The FDA has said it will probably not require labeling of the fish, however Alaska, a top wild salmon producer, requires labeling of genetically engineered salmon and momentum is growing for GMO labeling in a number of states across the U.S. and at the federal level.

AquaBounty Technologies’ AquAdvantage® salmon is genetically engineered with the DNA of an eel-like ocean pout to grow faster. At least 35 other species of genetically engineered fish, along with chickens, pigs and cows, are currently under development, and the FDA’s decision on this genetically engineered salmon application sets a precedent for other genetically engineered fish and animals.

A growing body of science suggests that GMO salmon may pose serious environmental and public health risks, including potentially irreversible damage to wild salmon populations.

 “There were over 250 million wild salmon harvested in Alaska and Puget Sound this year. Why should we put this sustainable resource at risk for the benefit of a few multinational corporations who will, sooner or later, introduce GE salmon into their floating feed lots? Americans will be eating synthetic salmon, thinking they are receiving the nutritional benefits of wild salmon,” said Dr. Pete Knutson, owner of Loki Fish Company and Commissioner on the Puget Sound Salmon Commission.

“There’s no place on our dinner plates for genetically engineered fish. We will continue to work to ensure the market, from grocery retailers to restaurants, continues to listen to majority of consumers that don't want to eat this poorly studied, unlabeled genetically engineered fish,” said Archer. 

More information on health and environmental risks of genetically engineered salmon and a full list of stores that have made commitments to not sell genetically engineered seafood and salmon, letters sent to companies by Friends of the Earth and allies, and a list of coalition partners are available at www.gefreeseafood.org.

Grocery stores, restaurants and chefs can add their name to the Pledge for GE-Free Seafood by visiting http://www.foe.org/gefreeseafood

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Expert contact: Dana Perls, (510) 978-4425, dperls@foe.org
Communications contact: Kate Colwell, (202) 222-0744, kcolwell@foe.org

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