Frankenfish: The Sequel to GMO Fish
By Debbie Kay
The last time that Angler’s Club reported on FDA approval of genetically modified fish, the first strain of aquacultured Atlantic salmon had been approved for import to the US after they were raised in fish farms in Panama. Recently, however, congress has suspended their import pending agreement on how these salmon should be labeled. As the salmon will still need approximately three years to grow to market size, this ban is not yet affecting the business of AquaBounty. The labeling plan must be fully published by the FDA, so it is possible that this will take some time.
This ban was spearheaded by Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and was placed into a larger, all-purpose spending bill as a rider. It is important to note that this ban is not permanent, but it does allow for some time to reexamine the risks of GMO fish to the environment, to the commercial fishing industry, and to public health. The FDA and AquaBounty currently believe that no such problems will be found. Evironmental groups and fishing interests who fear otherwise, however, will have more opportunity to research and to potentially plead their case.
GMO Fish Labeling
The GMO labeling issue has continued to be a big deal to many consumer rights groups. There have been a number of bills proposed at the state level to require labels on all foods containing GMO products. Though the bills have not been wildly successful,
they have created enough consumer awareness that a number of companies have begun to place this information on their packaging voluntarily. The combined forces of GMO awareness advocates and conservation groups will spread awareness of the group even further. Wild fish advocates have been very successful in labeling farmed fish vs wild caught, and maintaining a market for commercial catches.
For now, the populations of all-female, sterile GMO fish in landlocked water bodies and raised in foreign countries will not be making their way to the US. Several things may happen from here. The labeling regulations may get waylaid by concerned groups, delaying import and forcing AquaBounty to choose other national markets. The labeling rules may come swiftly, and no additional problems may be found that would force the FDA to reconsider the safety of their ruling. Or, something in between. All interest groups are continuing to work hard during the hiatus, and fully expect things to go their way. Fishing advocates who do not want these fish to make it to US markets can make a difference in several ways. First, support GMO labeling efforts. Vote if they make it to your area, or donate to labeling efforts. Second, buy wild-caught fish, and support industries who label and encourage wild-caught fishing. Third, support efforts to balance sustainable fish populations and healthy habitats while encouraging fishing efforts. Encourage others in your fishing communities to do the same.