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A coalition including Community Alliance for Global Justice, fishermen, members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 21 and concerned Costco customers rallied in front of the Costco next door to store headquarters and presented more than 300,000 petition signatures demanding that Costco Wholesale publicly commit to not sell genetically modified (GMO) salmon.
Earlier this year, on March 7, the coalition attempted to deliver more than 50,000 petitions to the Costco store in Downtown Seattle, to no avail. In response to the store manager’s refusal to accept the petitions, allied groups across the nation, including Friends of the Earth, Food & Water Watch, Center for Food Safety, Food Democracy Now!, Sum of Us, Community Alliance for Global Justice, Campaign for Safe Food and Organic Consumers Association, collected more than six times the amount of signatures and local allies attempted to deliver them directly to Costco’s headquarters early this morning.
In response to this campaign led by Friends of the Earth and allies, more than 60 retailers, including Target, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Safeway and Kroger, representing more than 9,000 grocery stores across the country, have made commitments to not sell this genetically modified fish, should it be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Although Costco is one of the largest retailers of salmon and seafood in the U.S., and headquartered in the Northwest region, home to Pacific wild salmon, it has yet to make a similar public commitment.
“More than 300,000 people from across the country are asking Costco not to sell genetically modified salmon. Costco, a seemingly progressive company, is located in our backyard. By delivering these signatures directly to Costco’s front door, it is our hope that they will no longer be able to ignore the risks posed by genetically modified salmon and make the pledge,” says Danielle Friedman, organizing director of the Community Alliance for Global Justice.
Nearly 2 million people—including scientists, fishermen, business owners and consumers—have written to the FDA in opposition to the approval of genetically engineered salmon due to the risks it poses to human health, the environment and wild salmon populations. Recently, a never-before-seen Canadian government report raised new environmental and health concerns not being considered by the FDA. Despite this outcry and new sustainability and safety concerns, the FDA is still considering GMO salmon's approval. If approved, this would be the first genetically engineered animal allowed by regulators to enter the U.S. food supply, and it will likely not be labeled.
“Genetically engineered salmon are a threat to the Pacific Northwest,” said Dylan Knutson, general manager at local Loki Fish Company. “On top of the documented issues associated with farmed salmon—escapement, pollution and a net loss of protein per pound of fish produced—introducing a frankenfish opens Pandora's box of probable environmental catastrophe. We need to be restoring native habitat and nurturing a properly managed wild fishery, not perpetuating the problems of the farmed salmon industry with genetically engineered salmon.”
At least 35 other species of genetically engineered fish are currently under development, and the FDA’s decision on this genetically engineered salmon application will set a precedent for other genetically engineered fish and animals (including cows, chickens and pigs) to enter the global food market.
Three quarters of Americans surveyed in a New York Times poll said they would not eat genetically engineered fish, and 93 percent wanted GMO foods to be labeled. Polls show that 80 percent of Americans who regularly eat fish say sustainable practices are "important" or "very important" to them.
“Genetically engineered salmon is risky and Costco should pledge to keep it out of their stores,” said Todd Crosby, secretary and treasurer for Seattle’s UFCW 21 union. “The 25,000 Grocery store workers at UFCW 21 take pride in nourishing their communities with healthy food. While we don't always have control over the products we handle, we do have a union voice to speak up for ourselves and our customers. Costco workers do not have that voice so we are standing together with them and their customers to call on Costco to make the right choice.”
The national debate about GMO labeling has been heating up over the past several months with several bills in Congress gaining momentum. Sen. Barbara Boxer’s (D-CA) and Rep. Peter DeFazio’s (D-OR) Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act would make GMO food labeling mandatory across the country, while U.S. Representatives Mike Pompeo (R-KS) and G.K. Butterfield’s (D-NC) bill, dubbed the “Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act,” would make GMO labels voluntary. If passed, the DARK Act would allow retailers like Costco to sell GMO salmon unlabeled and would block states like Washington from passing GMO labeling laws.
The supermarket rejection of genetically engineered salmon is part of a growing trend of food companies distancing themselves from GMO foods. Chipotle is removing GMOs and Whole Foods will require GMO foods in its stores to be labeled by 2018. Cereal giant General Mills removed GMO ingredients from Cheerios and Post quickly followed suit, removing GMOs from Grape Nuts. McDonald's and Gerber have said they have no plans to sell the GMO apple that was recently approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
To find more information on health and environmental risks of genetically engineered salmon; a full list of stores that have made commitments to not sell genetically engineered seafood and salmon; letters sent to companies by Friends of the Earth and allies; and a list of coalition partners, check out our campaign for GMO-free seafood. Grocery stores, restaurants and chefs can also communicate their commitment to not sell GMO salmon by signing up on this page.
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Colorado River Has Lost 1.5 Billion Tons of Water to the Climate Crisis, 'Severe Water Shortages' May Follow
California is headed toward drought conditions as February, typically the state's wettest month, passes without a drop of rain. The lack of rainfall could lead to early fire conditions. With no rain predicted for the next week, it looks as if this month will be only the second time in 170 years that San Francisco has not had a drop of rain in February, according to The Weather Channel.
The last time San Francisco did not record a drop of rain in February was in 1864 as the Civil War raged.
"This hasn't happened in 150 years or more," said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability to The Guardian. "There have even been a couple [of] wildfires – which is definitely not something you typically hear about in the middle of winter."
While the Pacific Northwest has flooded from heavy rains, the southern part of the West Coast has seen one storm after another pass by. Last week, the U.S. Drought Monitor said more Californians are in drought conditions than at any time during 2019, as The Weather Channel reported.
The dry winter has included areas that have seen devastating fires recently, including Sonoma, Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties. If the dry conditions continue, those areas will once again have dangerously high fire conditions, according to The Mercury News.
"Given what we've seen so far this year and the forecast for the next few weeks, I do think it's pretty likely we'll end up in some degree of drought by this summer," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported.
Another alarming sign of an impending drought is the decreased snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. The National Weather Service posted to Twitter a side-by-side comparison of snowpack from February 2019 and from this year, illustrating the puny snowpack this year. The snow accumulated in the Sierra Nevadas provides water to roughly 30 percent of the state, according to NBC Los Angeles.
Right now, the snowpack is at 53 percent of its normal volume after two warm and dry months to start the year. It is a remarkable decline, considering that the snowpack started 2020 at 90 percent of its historical average, as The Guardian reported.
"Those numbers are going to continue to go down," said Swain. "I would guess that the 1 March number is going to be less than 50 percent."
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center forecast that the drier-than-average conditions may last through April.
NOAA said Northern California will continue deeper into drought through the end of April, citing that the "persistent high pressure over the North Pacific Ocean is expected to continue, diverting storm systems to the north and south and away from California and parts of the Southwest," as The Weather Channel reported.
As the climate crisis escalates and the world continues to heat up, California should expect to see water drawn out of its ecosystem, making the state warmer and drier. Increased heat will lead to further loss of snow, both as less falls and as more of it melts quickly, according to The Guardian.
"We aren't going to necessarily see less rain, it's just that that rain goes less far. That's a future where the flood risk extends, with bigger wetter storms in a warming world," said Swain, as The Guardian reported.
The Guardian noted that while California's reservoirs are currently near capacity, the more immediate impact of the warm, dry winter will be how it raises the fire danger as trees and grasslands dry out.
"The plants and the forests don't benefit from the water storage reservoirs," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported. "If conditions remain very dry heading into summer, the landscape and vegetation is definitely going to feel it this year. From a wildfire perspective, the dry years do tend to be the bad fire years, especially in Northern California."
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A warm day in winter used to be a rare and uplifting relief.
Now such days are routine reminders of climate change – all the more foreboding when they coincide with news stories about unprecedented wildfires, record-breaking "rain bombs," or the accelerated melting of polar ice sheets.
Where, then, can one turn for hope in these dark months of the year?