“Genetically modified” is a word we hear a lot in reference to vegetable production. Alison Wiediger of Au Naturel Farm gave us a primer on GMO foods here on the blog a few months back. To sum it up: scientists are “improving” our food supply by changing the genetics of the food that we eat. Many countries have outlawed genetically modified organisms in their food supplies because of the risks and lack of long-term safety research associated with them, but here in the United States, we can’t seem to jump on the GMO bandwagon fast enough. Our government rushes to approve these questionable products without a hint of concern for the many dangerous factors involved.
Right now, the FDA is taking it to the next level, by working to approve genetically engineered salmon. This is a very dangerous move that threatens to destroy the entire global supply of wild salmon. While the issue of salmon may seem very far away to those of us in Kentucky, it really isn’t. These fish are a very important part of our fragile global ecosystem. You may not realize it, but we also have some salmon ties right here in our home state!
I wanted to share this important news story with my readers, so I asked my friends Jason and Mary Beth McKinley to weigh in. Jason and Mary Beth are native Kentuckians who make their home in Stanford, KY but spend their summers fishing for wild sockeye salmon in Bristol Bay, Alaska. They are passionate about protecting wild salmon and their habitat. (I’ve written a full-length article about them and their business, Caught Wild Salmon, for the upcoming issue of Story Magazine, so don’t miss it!) I consider them our resident Kentucky salmon experts, and here is what they have to say about GM salmon:
How can an organization like the FDA whose tagline “Protecting and Promoting Your Health” even consider that the genetically engineered salmon (GE) created by AquaBounty, namely AquAdvantage, could remotely be advantageous to our well-being? The FDA’s further acceptance of the transgenic salmon in December, necessitates a call to action to maintain integrity for our environment, human health, our food supply—something that the FDA is supposed to ‘protect’ on our behalf.
As a consumer, wild caught Alaskan sockeye salmon fisherman, business owner, and human, the proposal and creation of a genetically modified salmon—which if passed will be the first genetically engineered animal food—is wrong on so many levels. First, a genetically modified animal that has been treated and pumped with antibiotics in order to grow faster is more susceptible to disease and has a higher risk of deformities. Why are we playing with nature? As consumers, we do not want to ingest more toxins from a source of protein that is actually supposed to be healthy for us if consumed from a trusted, sustainable, wild source.
As a consumer, one might think that “Yes, I’m opposed to GM salmon, so I just won’t eat it. This ‘fight’ doesn’t really pertain to me.” Wrong! Another problem is that if the FDA approves the proposed Frankenfish, companies who sell it aren’t even required by law to label that it is a GM salmon! How can GM salmon not even be labeled?! As consumers, we should have more rights than this. We should know what we are purchasing!
Last but not least, GM salmon poses a huge threat to wild salmon and the environment. Research published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that a release of just sixty GM salmon into a wild population of 60,000 would lead to the extinction of the wild population in less than 40 fish generations. Also, where is the consideration for the wildlife that feed off of wild salmon (i.e. bears)? What impact will there be when they are feeding off of Frankenfish or the impact of the GM salmon when they die off and all of the antibiotics are then running off into the streams and land? Disrupting Mother Nature, the environment, and the livelihoods of families and animals that depend on the wild salmon population is unacceptable.
If you believe in your health,
if you believe in protecting the environment,
if you believe in protecting your children and future generations,
if you believe in proper labeling for genetically modified foods,
if you believe in banning genetically modified animals/foods,
if you believe in banning cancer-causing additives to our food,
if you believe in protecting jobs and livelihoods of those that depend on wild salmon,
if you believe in the integrity of our food supply,
then don’t you believe that the FDA should be protecting and promoting your health?
If you care ANY of these things, then you must voice your opinion about banning GM salmon to President Obama, Congress, and the FDA. We must demand the rejection of this proposal.
Editor’s Note: Comments to the FDA must be submitted by February 25th. Make your voice heard at the Regulations.gov GE Salmon Page. For further information on fighting against this travesty, visit the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund for detailed instructions on other ways to contact our elected officials about this issue. (There is also a sample letter there for you to use if needed when submitting your comments.)
To keep up with Jason & Mary Beth’s salmon adventures, connect with Caught Wild on Facebook. Oh, and a shameless plug—come visit the Kentucky Green Living Fair on March 30th to meet Jason & Mary Beth and learn more about their lives as Kentucky’s own salmon fisherman!