Yesterday, a coalition of 30 consumer, health, food safety, and fishing groups launched the “Campaign for Genetically Engineered (GE)-Free Seafood”.
At the same time, they announced that several major grocers – representing more than 2,000 stores – have committed not to sell GE seafood.
Vital Choice has also signed the coalition's Pledge for GE-Free Seafood … though our longtime no-GE-foods policy predates this campaign by 10 years.
(To be clear, the terms genetically engineered (GE) and genetically modified (GM) mean the same thing, and GMO stands for genetically modified organism.)
The coalition, led by Friends of the Earth, includes the Center for Food Safety, Food & Water Watch, Consumers Union, and Healthy Child Healthy World (which Vital Choice supports).
GM fear-mongering doesn't help
When it comes to genetically modified foods, the public debate often sheds more heat than light.
For example, we agree with the view of biotech firms expressed by Ronnie Cummins, National Director of the Organic Consumers Association:
“For decades, they have controlled the world's food supply by buying off politicians and regulatory agencies, intimidating small farmers, manipulating the outcome of scientific studies, lying to consumers – and threatening to sue states like Vermont if they dare to pass a GMO labeling law.”
However, Ronnie is not correct when he says, “… scientists are clear: genetically engineered food has been linked to a wide range of health hazards ...”
That statement misrepresents the evidence and dents the credibility of all critics of U.S. and corporate GM food policies.
Although some animal feeding studies show potentially adverse effects from certain GM foods, the available evidence does not suggest that GM foods per se – which vary widely in their composition and means of creation – present a risk to animals or people.
In fact, as a panel appointed by the U.S. National Research Council (NRC) reported in 2004, “All evidence evaluated to date indicates that unexpected and unintended compositional changes arise with all forms of genetic modification, including genetic engineering.”
By “all forms of genetic modification”, they meant to include conventional crop breeding.
The NRC panel concluded that the conventional breeding method described above – exposing seeds to gene-mutating radiation or chemicals – poses the greatest likelihood of unintended genetic effects ... greater than any GM technique (NRC 2004).
Many of the crops planted by conventional and organic farmers were created by exposing seeds to gene-mutating radiation or chemicals – which creates thousands of random genetic mutations.
They're asking grocery stores, seafood restaurants, chefs, and seafood companies to join the Pledge for GE-Free Seafood.
“Since the FDA will likely not label genetically engineered fish, this pledge will help parents — and all of us — know where we can safely shop to avoid eating the unknown,” said Alexandra Zissu, editorial director of Healthy Child Healthy World (CFS 2013).
The growing market rejection of GE fish comes as the FDA conducts its final review of a genetically engineered salmon.
If approved, the salmon would be the first-ever genetically engineered animal allowed to enter the human food supply.
For the story to date, see “GM Salmon Gets Tentative FDA Approval'.
At Vital Choice we've long pledged not to sell GE salmon or other GE foods, for three reasons:
  • We favor natural and organic foods very strongly. Major GE crops are designed to reduce use of herbicides or pesticides, but they've generated unforeseen adverse effects on the environment … although evidence of harm to livestock or humans is scant and often disputed by a majority of independent researchers (Knudsen I et al. 2004; NRC 2004; Sanvido O et al. 2007; Domingo JL et al. 2011). See “GMO-Linked Herbicide Begins to Backfire” and “Natural Pesticide from GM Crops Found in Fetuses”.
  • The FDA often bends to agro- and biotech-industry pressure to downplay concerns … see “Gene-Modified Food Fears Fueled by Secrets”.
  • We won't sell farm-raised salmon, which are nutritionally inferior to wild salmon and appear to pose serious eco risks, as currently operated. Compared with wild salmon, farmed salmon are much higher in competing, pro-inflammatory omega-6 fats from grain and soybeans (though just as high or higher in omega-3s) – and much lower in vitamin D. (See “Farmed Fish Possess Unhealthful Fat Profiles” and “Wild Salmon Beats Farmed for Vitamin D (Again)”.)
Major grocers join Vital Choice in rejecting GE salmon
Stores that have committed to not offer the salmon or other genetically engineered seafood include Trader Joe's (367 stores), Aldi (1,230 stores), Whole Foods (346 stores in the U.S.), and Marsh Supermarkets (93 stores in Indiana and Ohio).
“We applaud these retailers … now it's time for other food retailers, including Walmart, Costco, and Safeway to follow suit …”, said Eric Hoffman from Friends of the Earth.
Consumer opposition to GE animals is strong
According to a recent Lake Research poll, the majority of Americans say they won't eat genetically engineered seafood, and 91 percent say the FDA should not allow it onto the market.
And 80 percent of Americans who regularly eat fish say that sustainable practices are “important” or “very important” to them, according to a 2013 NPR poll.
The FDA has said it will likely not label genetically engineered salmon, providing consumers no way of knowing if the fish they buy is genetically engineered.
At least 35 other species of genetically engineered fish are currently under development, and the FDA's decision on this genetically engineered salmon application will set a precedent for other genetically engineered fish and animals (including cows, chickens and pigs) to enter the global food market.
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