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The Old Man and Katy Perry’s Dancing Sharks

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It was a big fish. The poor people wanted to eat it. Everyone else wanted to choose whether to eat the big fish. The crusader sharks against genetic engineering stole the big fish. The poor people stayed hungry. The other people could not choose to eat the big fish. They had hunger cramps in their stomachs. – Apologies to Ernest Hemingway

It’s come to this: GMOInside.org is celebrating supermarket chain Costco Wholesale’s decision to refrain from selling AquaBounty Technology’s genetically engineered AquAdvantage Salmon. According to the Seattle Times’ article reprinted on the GMOInside.org website, Costco joins a list of supermarkets – Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Target and Kroger – that won’t sell the salmon, which was approved for sale to the public by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last month after studying the issue for 20 years. The FDA also concluded it wasn’t necessary to mandate labeling AquAdvantage Salmon as genetically modified.

GMOInside.org is a coalition that includes such anti-science standard bearers as Food Babe, Green America, Moms Across America, the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, the Pressed Organic Juice Directory, Conscious Kitchen, and – you just knew it, didn’t you? – the shareholder activists members of As You Sow. Just as the AquAdvantage Salmon finally is lassoed to the skiff, the GMOInside.org posse protested at stores until they refused to sell it like sharks dancing around Katy Perry at a professional football halftime show.

Such is their aversion to AquAdvantage Salmon, the sharks probably don’t realize they’re working against their environmental agenda. According to the AquaBounty website, AquAdvantage Salmon will take a bite out of the U.S. seafood deficit. The company estimates 95 percent of Atlantic salmon consumed in this country is imported from elsewhere, which is largely due to strict environmental regulations limiting coastline fishing. As the company notes, that’s good for U.S. coastlines but not so much overseas. Further, the company notes its farm-raised Atlantic salmon derives from inland farms, which emits 23x to 25x less carbon emissions that imported salmon from Norway and Chile.

The above, of course, are merely the claims of AquaBounty. The fishbone sticking in the back of the GMOInside.org sharks’ craw has more to do with the methods by which AquaBounty gets their Atlantic salmon so darned big. After 20 years of mulling over the AquAdvantage Salmon, the FDA concluded:

The FDA scientists rigorously evaluated extensive data submitted by the manufacturer, AquaBounty Technologies, and other peer-reviewed data, to assess whether AquAdvantage salmon met the criteria for approval established by law; namely, safety and effectiveness. The data demonstrated that the inserted genes remained stable over several generations of fish, that food from the GE salmon is safe to eat by humans and animals, that the genetic engineering is safe for the fish, and the salmon meets the sponsor’s claim about faster growth.

In addition, FDA assessed the environmental impacts of approving this application and found that the approval would not have a significant impact on the environment of the United States. That’s because the multiple containment measures the company will use in the land-based facilities in Panama and Canada make it extremely unlikely that the fish could escape and establish themselves in the wild.

And here’s the FDA’s statement on labeling GE salmon:

At the same time, many consumers also want to know whether their food or any ingredients in their food is derived from genetically engineered sources. Although the law does not require food containing ingredients derived from these salmon to be labeled as GE, FDA recognizes that many consumers are interested in this information, and some food manufacturers will want to make the distinction.

FDA is releasing two guidance documents detailing the agency’s current thinking on labeling—a draft guidance for labeling of food derived from Atlantic salmon that has or has not been genetically engineered and a final guidance for labeling of food that has or has not been derived from GE plants—to help those manufacturers who wish to voluntarily make the distinction on the labeling of their food products.

“Both guidance documents explain FDA’s best thinking on how to make it easy for consumers to know whether a food was produced using genetic engineering or not,” says Felicia Billingslea, B.S., M.S., director of FDA’s Division of Food Labeling and Standards.

Now if we could just get those blasted sharks to leave both the big fish and poor Katy Perry alone.

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Bruce Edward Walker has more than 30 years’ writing and editing experience in a variety of publishing areas, including reference books, newspapers, magazines, media relations and corporate speeches. Much of this material involved research on water rights, land use, alternative-technology vehicles and other environmental issues, but Walker has also written extensively on nonscientific subjects, having produced six titles in Wiley Publishing’s CliffsNotes series, including study guides for "Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland" and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest." He has also authored more than 100 critical biographies of authors and musicians for Gale Research's Contemporary Literary Criticism and Contemporary Musicians reference-book series. He was managing editor of The Heartland Institute's InfoTech & Telecom News from 2010-2012. Prior to that, he was manager of communications for the Mackinac Center's Property Rights Network. He also served from 2006-2011 as editor of Michigan Science, a quarterly Mackinac Center publication. Walker has served as an adjunct professor of literature and academic writing at University of Detroit Mercy. For the past five years, he has authored a weekly column for the mid-Michigan Morning Sun newspaper. Walker holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Michigan State University. He is the father of two daughters and currently lives in Flint, Mich., with his wife Katherine.

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