Has the FDA approved genetically engineered salmon?
|Aquabounty v conventional salmon|
Earlier this week, the Food and Drug Administration held public hearings to determine the introduction of Aquabounty Technologies' Transgenic salmon into our food supply. The FDA panel questioned some of the data submitted by Aquabounty, including the small sample size represented in its findings and the potential for allergic reactions to the "frakenfish" (fish as a food group inherently contain a high level of allergens).
Consumer advocates are united with salmon farmers and fisherman in their shout out against the production of genetically engineered (GE) fish until independent tests prove the fish are safe for the food supply, the environment, and safe for human consumption.
The presence of iGF-1, a growth hormone linked to an increased risk of cancer, in this fast growing test tube fish, was one concern raised by consumer groups who want to see transparent labeling if GE animals are approved for consumption.
The FDA panel has not reached a conclusion. The next step is an environmental assessment and a 30-day period for the public to voice their comments. If approved, the first GE salmon could be in the grocery store in two years. Under FDA guidelines for food labels, the salmon you buy will not require a label stating it is GE in origin.
more about GE salmon and food labels after the jump
Current FDA regulations do not require labels based on how a food was produced. An example of label confusion: milk that contains r-GBH, another growth hormone, along side a competing label claiming "no significant difference has been shown between milk derived from r-GBH treated and non-rGBH treated cows" on a carton of milk.
Aquabounty is against mandatory labeling sighting it as unfair and costly. Elliot Entis, Aquabounties founder, would support voluntary labeling by producers who want to communicate that their fish was not GE. Place the cost and burden for the label on the guy supplying nature's fish? Fair?
Besides the cost of voluntary labeling, Aquabounties fear is the GE label would be read like a warning, a skull and crossbones. Other critics of mandatory labeling imply labels are too confusing to consumers. That's telling.
Frankly, my first reaction was outrage, to be thought of as too stupid to understand food labels. Now I see the point. Current FDA food label requirements are severely limited, addressing nutrition and health claims of food products and ignoring methods of food production.
Food production raises all the issues we rather not think about as we dig into our dinner. What are the living conditions of the animals? What are they fed? How many and what type of growth hormone and antibiotics have they ingested? What is the environmental impact of production methods?
The opportunity here is for the FDA to address the advances of genetically modified and genetically engineered food, and adopt food label requirements to include a category to address transparency in food production methods.
Allow the consumer to make an informed decision what they put on their tables and in their bodies. That is what would be fair.