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GM salmon, still waiting

(article, Culinate staff)

Here on Culinate, we've tracked the saga of GM salmon over the past few years. The most recent public-comment period with the FDA on the fish — the AquAdvantage salmon, produced by a company called AquaBounty — ended on April 26.

Plenty of food activists have come out against the concept of a GM fish, including Wenonah Hauter of Food & Water Watch and Ocean Robbins of the Food Revolution Network. Their arguments include the environment (fish farming harms ocean waters, and escaped fish breed with their wild relatives) and health (we don't know how eating genetically modified food affects the human body). 

Meanwhile, in January the state of Alaska — home to the biggest wild-salmon fishery in the U.S. — introduced an anti-GM-salmon resolution. And in March, a number of grocery chains, including Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, and PCC Natural Markets, announced that they would not sell GM salmon if it came to market.

Others — notably the science writer Emily Anthes, author of the new book Frankenstein’s Cat: Cuddling Up to Biotech’s Brave New Beasts — have declared that GM fish are a good thing, chiefly because they reduce pressure on wild fisheries. (Anthes also argues that the biotech industry will abandon the U.S. if its products don't get approved here; in other words, GM livestock are inevitable somewhere on the planet.)

The latest salvo comes from the OnEarth blogger Jocelyn Zuckerman, who carefully picked apart the various arguments in a thoughtful post about the GM salmon odyssey, with an emphasis on the fish project's lack of environmental oversight. Her conclusion:

bq. In her Times op-ed, Anthes wrote that the rejection of AquaBounty’s salmon application would be “just fine” with groups that “traffic in scare tactics rather than science.” In fact, among those calling for a rejection, sound science is all they want.