A swarm of hate mail is piling up at the laboratory of AquaBounty Technologies, who will soon unleash their Frankensalmon into the consumer marketplace. The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) is nearing their decision on whether or not to allow genetically modified AquAdvantage Salmon into US stores. According to Friends of the Earth Inc., a network consisting of international and domestic environmental and political organizations, “nearly 2 million people — including scientists, fishermen, business owners, and consumers have written to the FDA opposing the approval of genetically engineered salmon…” These individuals would rather not be the test subjects of AquaBounty’s experiment and I do not blame them.
AquaBounty claims that their salmon is environmentally friendly, safe for human consumption, and more efficiently raised than other farmed salmon. Unfortunately, we do not know the long-term environmental and health effects of splicing Atlantic Salmon with Ocean Pout and Chinook Salmon genes. The scientific evidence supporting both the benefits and dangers of genetic engineering is still in its infancy. Despite the controversy, I choose to reject genetically modified salmon and every other genetically modified product on the grounds that it is unlabeled and privately owned.
Grocery giants Safeway, Kroger, Trader Joes, Whole Foods and Target will refuse to sell it, but why are they choosing to take such a strong ethical stance? A New York Times poll conducted in 2013 found that 93 percent of respondents believed foods containing GMO ingredients should be identified. 75% said they would not eat GMO fish, and about 65% said they would not eat meat that had been modified. By siding with public opinion and refusing to sell GM) salmon, retailers are able to retain valuable customers. If the FDA approves AquAdvantage Salmon in the face of the opposition, consumers should, at the very least, have the same right to refuse GMO products as well as the retailers who sell them.
Producers are required to label products with high-fructose corn syrup, trans fats, gluten, animal products, almonds, and artificial growth hormone, so why not GMOs? Ron Stotish, CEO of AquaBounty, said “American free enterprise has always worked well and it will continue to work well. If you have a good product, you will be successful.” However, a great tasting product is not always a safe one. If GMOs are not labeled, the consumer has no idea what they are buying. The FDA should take Ron’s advice, label GMOs, and let the customer make the choice. AquaBounty and other GMO labs are lobbying against labeling and are working very hard to further misinform consumers.
AquaBounty is not a charity. By holding patents on the life and reproduction of AquAdvantage Salmon, AquaBounty is setting the precedent that a blueprint for life can be intellectual property. This private ownership places public safety, health, and supply in the hands of for-profit corporations. According to an Environment News Service report, the global Atlantic Salmon catch fell 80% from 1970 to 2000. As a result, AquaBounty may soon corner the salmon market when natural salmon populations become depleted.
We are engaged in a war of emotions and ethics. There is little evidence that suggests GMOs are solving world hunger issues, like proponents of this food engineering once claimed. The World Health Organization estimates that over a billion people suffer from hunger worldwide despite the fact that we are producing more food now than ever before. While ending hunger remains the principal marketing technique of AquaBounty and genetic scientists, their unlabeled patented superfood is for profit, not the poor.