FDA Puts U.S. Consumers at 'Serious Risk' by Allowing GE Salmon 'Frankenfish' Imports
By Jessica Corbett
The Trump administration has lifted a ban on importing genetically engineered or GE salmon, which critics have long called "Frankenfish," in a move that consumer advocates charge "runs counter to sound science and market demand."
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the decision on Friday, more than three years after approving GE salmon as the first biotech animal authorized for commercial sale and consumption in the U.S.
That approval as well as the agency's repeal of the import alert are major wins for the biotech industry — and have come despite concerns repeatedly raised by environmental and public health advocates about the threats to wild salmon populations and consumers.
As Politico reported:
"The alert was put in place after a spending bill provision backed by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) blocked the fish from entering commerce in the U.S. until FDA finalized labeling guidelines that would inform consumers the product was genetically modified.
FDA on Friday said it no longer needs to finalize those labeling guidelines because a 2016 law requiring the disclosure of genetically engineered ingredients nationwide applies to the salmon, essentially taking the product outside of FDA's purview."
The Trump administration's guidelines for the GE or GMO labeling law, released last year by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), have been described by critics as "a disaster." As Common Dreams reported in December, "To make the disclosure, food producers have four options: text, a friendly-looking symbol, an electronic or digital link, or a text message."
"USDA's new guidelines don't require adequate mandatory labeling, don't require calling the fish 'genetically engineered,' and don't help consumers know what kind of fish they are buying," George Kimbrell, legal director at the Center for Food Safety, said in a statement on Monday.
"These guidelines don't require mandatory labeling of GE salmon, and instead allow producers to use QR codes or 1-800 numbers for more information. That clearly is not what the Murkowski amendment requires," added Kimbrell, whose group is considering legal action against the FDA.
The FDA’s decision to allow genetically modified “salmon” for sale to everyday consumers without clear, discernable… https://t.co/3fqo5sIog9— Sen. Dan Sullivan (@Sen. Dan Sullivan)1552174597.0
The FDA's decision, made without consulting indigenous groups who rely on salmon for food and income, also roiled tribal leaders.
"It's unconscionable and arrogant to think man can improve upon our Creator's perfection in wild salmon as a justification and excuse to satisfy corporate ambition and greed," declared Fawn Sharp, president of the Quinault Indian Nation. Sharp said the unilateral move "is an alarming signal that our sacred and prized wild salmon is now even more vulnerable to external markets and ecological threats."
Valerie Segrest, Muckleshoot tribal member and executive director of Feed Seven Generations, concurred.
"Clearly this is an appropriation of our culture and this action will lead to inevitable contamination and irreversible damage to our food system," Segret concluded. "By lifting the ban on genetically engineered salmon, the FDA has put American consumers at serious risk and has directly attacked the life ways of Pacific Northwest Tribal communities."
Further, as Dana Perls, a senior food policy campaigner with Friends of the Earth, pointed out, the agency's decision doesn't align with public demand: "More than 80 retailers have said they won't sell this risky, unlabeled GMO fish and polls show consumers don't want it."
.@US_FDA just lifted its common-sense ban on #GMO salmon entering the US. With this move, FDA has put American con… https://t.co/AfnURp3FRi— Friends of the Earth (@Friends of the Earth)1552334054.0
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Steve Trent
Joe Biden's election is a huge positive in a year that has been extremely difficult across the globe. I speak for a vast number of people who watched anxiously from outside the United States when I heartily thank those who mobilized, campaigned and voted to make it happen. Your hard work affects us all.
But we're not at the end of the line. Far from it.
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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