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Major U.S. Supermarkets to Boycott GE Salmon

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Major U.S. Supermarkets to Boycott GE Salmon

Friends of the Earth

Many stores have already agreed to sign-on to the promise not to sell GE seafood, including Whole Foods, Trader Joes, Marsh Supermarkets, Aldi and PCC Natural Markets. Photo by John Bostock

A coalition of consumer, health, food safety and fishing groups launched the Campaign for Genetically Engineered-Free Seafood by announcing yesterday that several major grocery retailers representing more than 2,000 stores across the U.S. have already committed not to sell genetically engineered seafood if it is allowed onto the market.  

The growing market rejection of genetically engineered (GE) fish comes as the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) conducts its final review of a genetically engineered salmon. If approved, the salmon would be the first-ever genetically engineered animal allowed to enter the human food supply. 

Stores that have committed to not offer the salmon or other genetically engineered seafood include the national retailers Trader Joe’s (367 stores), Aldi (1,230 stores), Whole Foods (325 stores in U.S.); regional chains such as Marsh Supermarkets (93 stores in Indiana and Ohio), PCC Natural Markets (nine stores in Washington State); and co-ops in Minnesota, New York, California and Kansas.  

“We applaud these retailers for listening to the vast majority of their customers who want sustainable, natural seafood for their families. Now it’s time for other food retailers, including Walmart, Costco and Safeway, to follow suit and let their customers know they will not be selling unlabeled, poorly studied genetically engineered seafood,” said Eric Hoffman, food and technology policy campaigner with Friends of the Earth.

"Consumers Union has serious concerns about the safety of the first genetically engineered fish, a salmon engineered to grow to maturity twice as fast as wild salmon. FDA decided based on data from just six fish that there was no increased risk to people with fish allergies. However, even these meager data suggest that these fish show increased allergic potential," says Michael Hansen, PhD, senior scientist with Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports.

Consumer opposition to genetically engineered animals is strong. The majority of Americans say they won’t eat GE seafood, and 91 percent of Americans say the FDA should not allow it onto the market (Lake Research poll). Eighty percent of Americans who regularly eat fish say that sustainable practices are "important" or "very important" to them, according to a 2013 NPR poll.

“We won't sell genetically engineered fish because we don’t believe it is sustainable or healthy. It is troubling that the FDA is recommending approval of AquaBounty’s salmon as a ‘new animal drug,’ subjecting these engineered creatures to less rigorous safety standards than food additives. That’s not a credible safety assessment,” said Trudy Bialic from PCC Natural Markets in Washington State. 

“Simply put, this genetically engineered fish is unnecessary and is a problem masquerading as a solution,” said Heather Whitehead, online campaigns director at Center for Food Safety. “We’re excited to see that grocery retailers agree that there is no need to introduce an unnecessary, unpopular and risky new technology to the marketplace without adequate assessment, posing risks to human health, the environment, wild salmon,  and the sustainable fishing industry.”

The FDA has stated it will likely not label genetically engineered salmon, providing consumers no way of knowing if the fish they are feeding their families is genetically engineered. 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.

To avoid confusion in the marketplace and ensure sustainable seafood, a coalition of 30 groups led by Friends of the Earth—including the Center for Food Safety, Food & Water Watch, Consumers Union and Healthy Child Healthy World—are asking grocery stores, seafood restaurants, chefs, and seafood companies to join the Pledge for GE-Free Seafood and publicly commit to not knowingly purchase or sell genetically engineered salmon or other genetically engineered seafood. The Pledge for GE-Free Seafood is another way for grocery stores to let their customers know about their purchasing policies. 

“Parents are busy enough without having to worry if they're feeding their kids genetically engineered seafood. That's why we're excited about the Pledge for GE-Free Seafood," said Alexandra Zissu, editorial director of Healthy Child Healthy World, a family advocacy group. "Since the FDA will likely not label genetically engineered fish, this pledge will help parents—and all of us—know where we can safely shop to avoid eating the unknown. Then the focus can return to family meal fun, not risk management."

“Most consumers don't want to eat genetically engineered salmon, but without mandatory labeling it will be hard for them to avoid. That's why the stores who have committed to not to sell genetically engineered seafood are making a smart move and giving their customers what they want—a way to avoid this controversial, unnecessary biotech fish,” said Patty Lovera, assistant director of Food & Water Watch.

Visit EcoWatch’s GMO and BIODIVERSITY pages for more related news on this topic.

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Tell the FDA to Deny Approval of GE Salmon:

 

A plume of smoke from wildfires burning in the Angeles National Forest is seen from downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 29, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.

High winds, gusting up to 80- to 90 miles per hour in some parts of the state, are expected to last through Wednesday evening. Nearly the entire state has been in a drought for months, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which, alongside summerlike temperatures, has left vegetation dry and flammable.

Utilities Southern California Edison and PG&E, which serves the central and northern portions of the state, warned it may preemptively shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers to reduce the risk of electrical fires sparked by trees and branches falling on live power lines. The rare January fire conditions come on the heels of the worst wildfire season ever recorded in California, as climate change exacerbates the factors causing fires to be more frequent and severe.

California is also experiencing the most severe surge of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with hospitals and ICUs over capacity and a stay-at-home order in place. Wildfire smoke can increase the risk of adverse health effects due to COVID, and evacuations forcing people to crowd into shelters could further spread the virus.

As reported by AccuWeather:

In the atmosphere, air flows from high to low pressure. The setup into Wednesday is like having two giant atmospheric fans working as a team with one pulling and the other pushing the air in the same direction.
Normally, mountains to the north and east of Los Angeles would protect the downtown which sits in a basin. However, with the assistance of the offshore storm, there will be areas of gusty winds even in the L.A. Basin. The winds may get strong enough in parts of the basin to break tree limbs and lead to sporadic power outages and sparks that could ignite fires.
"Typically, Santa Ana winds stay out of downtown Los Angeles and the L.A. Basin, but this time, conditions may set up just right to bring 30- to 40-mph wind gusts even in those typically calm condition areas," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.

For a deeper dive:

AP, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Weather Channel, AccuWeather, New York Times, Slideshow: New York Times; Climate Signals Background: Wildfires, 2020 Western wildfire season

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for daily Hot News, and visit their news site, Nexus Media News.

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