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California may be first state to label genetically altered salmon

by Chris Hinyub, published

Last Thursday, state Assemblyman Jared Huffman introduced AB 88, which would require all genetically engineered salmon sold in California to contain clear and prominent labeling. California is the first state to introduce legislation that would require the labeling of GE salmon, an act which might be mimicked by other states as the federal government slowly but surely works its “frankenfish” through the regulatory process in the face of substantial public opposition.


     “The United States Food and Drug Administration’s current review of genetically engineered salmon does not adequately consider the potential environmental effects and health effects associated with genetically engineered salmon, including, but not limited to, risks to native salmon populations and other freshwater and marine species,” states the prospective legislation.


What anti-GMO advocates are most afraid of is the likelihood of GE salmon escaping into the wild. Much like the gene “outcrossing” threat posed by the Monsanto's recently approved open-pollinated GE alfalfa, this is one GMO that some critics say can't be contained by labeling laws alone. Runaway fish are common at commercial fish farms where fish are raised in cages exposed to the open sea. If a GE salmon mingles with the God-made variety, the worry is that the genetically altered fish will contaminate wild populations with its peculiar trans genes, which research has shown to be detrimental to wild fish and the humans who eat them.


This probable scenario of gene outcrossing, AB 88 argues, would cause extreme “market confusion,” potentially disabling the already suffering salmon industry of the Pacific Northwest because of popular distaste for genetically altered fish. Public opinion polls indicate that 95 percent of Californians want GMO foods to be labeled, while 50 percent say they would not eat genetically altered seafood at all.


     “More than 106 major salmon runs in northern California and the Pacific Northwest are extinct and another 214 runs of wild salmon are at risk of extinction,” AB 88 says. “An escaped genetically engineered fish could pose additional environmental risk to California’s already stressed wild salmon populations and coastal ecosystems.”


The Organic Consumers Association, one of many consumer advocacy groups pushing for GMO labeling, has been urging its members to spread the word that GMO salmon might show up in stores sooner than we think. The organization has produced a printable flier which seeks to raise awareness about the possible infiltration of our ecosystems by GE salmon.


The flier reads in part:


What if you knew that the FDA had studies -- from AquaBounty, the company that wants to commercialize GMO salmon -- that showed that GMO salmon is:


MORE ALLERGENIC: GMO salmon have mean allergenic potencies that are 20% and 52% higher than normal salmon.


MORE CARCINOGENIC: GMO salmon has 40% more IGF1, a hormone linked to prostate, breast and colon cancers in humans.


LESS NUTRITIOUS: GMO salmon has the lowest omega-3 to omega-6 ratio of any salmon.


LIKELY TO CHANGE THE BACTERIA OF YOUR GUT: Horizontal gene transfer, where the bacteria of the human gut takes up modified DNA from GMO foods during digestion, has been shown to occur with soy and is likely to happen with GMO salmon, too.


ALL MESSED UP: GMO salmon has increased frequency of skeletal malformations like "humpback" spinal compression, increased prevalence of jaw erosions or "screamer disease," and multisystemic, focal inflammation in its tissues.


NOT GOING TO SAVE WILD SALMON: The main justification for GMO salmon is that it could reduce the pressure on wild fish stocks, but consumption isn't the primary pressure on wild Alaskan salmon, destruction of their habitat is.


The OCA supports AB 88 and is urging its members to find more cosponsors.

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