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Nearly 2 Million Tell FDA: Deny GE Salmon

Health + Wellness
Nearly 2 Million Tell FDA: Deny GE Salmon

Food Democracy Now!

Last week, more than 1.8 million people sent comments vehemently opposing the approval of a genetically engineered (GE) salmon by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The effort was driven by a broad coalition organized over three years ago by the Center for Food Safety and consisting of public interest, consumer, environmental and animal protection groups, along with commercial and recreational fisheries associations and food businesses and retailers. 

“It is extremely disappointing that the Obama Administration continues to push approval of this dangerous and unnecessary product through a broken regulatory system,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director for Center for Food Safety. “The GE salmon has no socially redeeming value; it’s bad for the consumer, bad for the environment, and bad for our native salmon.”

The FDA first announced that it was considering the approval of a GE salmon in August 2010. If approved, it would be the first-ever GE animal permitted for human consumption in the U.S. Friday marked the close of a 120-day comment period on a revised draft environmental assessment for the GE salmon, which has remained a concern for consumers and Congress alike. 

“The fact that the consideration of AquaBounty’s GE salmon has gotten this far is a sign of how broken the current U.S. regulatory structure actually is,” said Dave Murphy, founder and executive director of Food Democracy Now! “If GMO salmon is approved, it sets a dangerous precedent and will be a new low for the Obama Administration in their failure to properly protect the American public and our food supply.”

In addition, documents disclosed on Friday through a Freedom of Information Act request raise serious questions about the adequacy of the FDA’s review of the AquAdvantage salmon application. Among other things, while the FDA has refused to look at the environmental impacts of these GE fish beyond the Canadian and Panamanian facilities proposed in the application, it appears that U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has already received requests to import AquAdvantage salmon eggs into the U.S. for commercial production.

“Like FDA's food safety analysis, the environmental analysis leaves many questions unanswered, and includes numerous, highly-questionable and unsubstantiated assumptions,” said Michael Hansen, PhD, senior scientist at Consumers Union. “The decision on this fish is precedent setting; given the inadequacies of this document, a full EIS, including a failure-mode analysis that looks at the possibility of fish escapes, must be performed."

The groups responsible for organizing the more than 1.8 million comments were Avaaz, Center for Food Safety, Friends of the Earth, Food & Water Watch, MoveOn, Organic Consumers Association, Food Democracy Now!, Credo, Consumers Union, Just Label It, Farm Sanctuary, Cascadia Wildlands, Earthjustice, American Anti-Vivisection Society (AAVS), Institute for Responsible Technology and the Alliance for Natural Health–USA

"The public has spoken, loud and clear: There is simply no need for GE salmon," said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. "It's time for FDA to put an end to this regulatory mess and admit that the environmental and public health risks are too big to approve this controversial product."

On Wednesday, 12 Senators led by Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) and 21 representatives led by Rep. Don Young (R-AK), Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) and Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA) sent letters to the FDA urging it to halt its approval until their economic, regulatory and environmental concerns are addressed. The Congressional letters come just months after an amendment offered by Sen. Begich to the Senate Budget Resolution passed by voice vote in favor of the labeling of GE fish. 

In addition to Congressional attention, the FDA received joint letters from major groups and businesses reflecting broad public opposition to GE salmon. A joint letter was submitted by CEOs of major environmental organizations including American Rivers, Center for Food Safety, Earthjustice, Friends of the Earth, Food & Water Watch, Greenpeace, Natural Resources Defense Council, Ocean Conservancy and Sierra Club. Led by the AAVS, 22 animal protection organizations joined another letter to FDA opposing GE salmon, as did a number of religious groups.

 

 

"The AquAdvantage salmon studies, by their very design, underreport or fail to detect health problems and abnormalities in the fish. Yet we know that genetic engineering is fraught with failures and unintended consequences, and preliminary findings indicate that GE salmon are prone to deformities and may be more susceptible to disease,” said Nina Mak, research analyst with AAVS. “It is deeply concerning that FDA would release this still-experimental technology into the environment." 

A variety of other groups also have voiced their opposition to GE salmon, including several indigenous groups. Citing numerous fisheries and economic concerns, more than 250 businesses, individuals, public interest groups and fisheries organizations, representing the commercial and recreational fishing industries across the U.S., joined a letter to FDA, including the Alaska Trollers Association, Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance, Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association and Alaska Marine Conservation Council.  

“U.S. fishermen take seriously the job of delivering a wholesome, sustainable, high quality product to market,” said Dale Kelly, executive director of the Alaska Trollers Association. “Applying such invasive technology to a food fish has not been adequately studied for its impacts on human health, the environment or American jobs.”

The market has already started to reject GE salmon. Supermarket chains with more than 2,500 grocery stores across the county have committed not to sell GE seafood should it come to market and 260 chefs across the country have signed on to a letter by Chefs Collaborative objecting to the transgenic fish.

“We don’t believe this engineered salmon is either healthful or sustainable,” says Trudy Bialic of Puget Consumers Co-op Markets in Seattle, Washington. “We won’t sell it.” 

“The FDA process is obviously flawed, and already the market is rejecting genetically engineered salmon,” said Eric Hoffman with Friends of the Earth. “The vast majority of consumers say they won’t eat genetically engineered fish and grocery stores are rejecting it. The submission of over 1.8 million comments in opposition to genetically engineered fish is just another sign that there is no future for this fish in the U.S.”

 

 

Visit EcoWatch’s GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISM page for more related news on this topic.

 
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The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

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"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

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To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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