GE meat in our food supply?
Contact: Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director, (202) 547-9359
George Kimbrell, Senior Staff Attorney, (571) 527-8618
Jaydee Hanson, Senior Policy Analyst, (703) 231-5956
MISGUIDED FDA OPPOSITION TO LABELING COULD LEAVE
PUBLIC PERMANENTLY IN THE DARK ON GE ANIMALS
Recent Polls Shows 91% of Americans Oppose GE Animals; CFS calls for clear, mandatory labeling
Rockville, MD (September 21, 2010) - After a two-day public hearing on the approval of the first genetically engineered (GE) animal intended for human consumption, the AquAdvantage GE salmon, FDA held a public hearing today to discuss whether or not these GE fish should be labeled as such should they be approved. A 60-day public comment period on the labeling issue will be open until November 22, 2010.
“This transgenic salmon is the first GE animal intended for food, yet the human health impacts of eating these GE fish are completely unknown,” said Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director at the Center for Safety (CFS). “These GE fish also pose unacceptable risks to wild salmon and the marine environment.” These “unknowns” were raised repeatedly at yesterday’s Veterinary Medicine Advisory Committee (VMAC) hearing, and the Committee was unable to come to any conclusion as to the safety or efficacy of the GE salmon. The hearing on labeling is premature given that the VMAC has not approved this salmon for human or animal consumption.
The public has not been quiet about the possible approval of GE salmon. In fact, over 300 environmental, consumer, health, and animal welfare organizations, along with salmon and fishing groups and associations, food companies, chefs and restaurants signed joint letters to the FDA opposing the approval of AquaBounty’s GE salmon. CFS and a coalition of allied groups also submitted 172,000 comments from individuals opposing the approval and urging clear, mandatory labeling should the fish be approved despite overwhelming public opposition (CFS comments to the VMAC and the joint letters can be found on our website).
Announcements by FDA officials and speakers today suggest that the Agency may not require labeling of GE salmon should it be approved. While FDA is operating under the fiction that transgenic animals are “new drugs,” the Agency does not feel that they need to be labeled in the same way that drugs are.
A Lake Research Partners poll commissioned by Food & Water Watch and released yesterday found that 91 percent of Americans believe FDA should not allow genetically engineered fish and meat into the marketplace; 83 percent felt strongly that it should not be allowed. Additionally, a 2008 Consumers Union nationwide poll found that 95 percent of respondents said they thought food from genetically engineered animals should be labeled, and 78 percent strongly agreed with this.
In his comments today, CFS Senior Staff Attorney George Kimbrell asserted that “labeling in the 21st Century cannot be based on 20th Century policy decisions.” The FDA currently uses its 1992 interpretation of “material” to inform its decisions on labeling, an interpretation that occurred prior to commercialization of any transgenic animal.
CFS and others have also criticized the process established by FDA. “After the numerous concerns raised by the VMAC yesterday, it is inappropriate to hold a hearing on the labeling of a product the Agency has yet to approve,” said George Kimbrell. To ensure meaningful public comment and confidence in the Agency’s processes, the agency should have separately convened the labeling hearing, after any initial decision on approval. “This is a backwards process at best and a dog and pony show at worst - labeling is not an adequate substitution for proper regulation and safety assessments,” added Kimbrell.
Apparently heeding public outcry about the lack of a public comment period on the approval of GE salmon itself, FDA announced yesterday that after the VMAC meetings, the Agency plans to publish the final environmental assessment (EA) as well as issue a notice in the Federal Register establishing a 30-day public comment period on the EA.
“It is totally unacceptable for GE fish not to be labeled if approved for commercial use,” said Jaydee Hanson, Senior Policy Analyst at the Center. “Consumers want more information about the foods they buy and feed to their families, not less. Leaving consumers in the dark not only prohibits them from making informed choices, but without mandatory tracking and labeling of these GE fish we may be putting public health at risk as well.”
“We strongly oppose FDA approval of GE salmon,” said Andrew Kimbrell. “Should FDA decide to approve the AquAdvantage GE salmon despite overwhelming consumer opposition and potential threats to the environment, human health, and native salmon populations, we urge that clear, mandatory labeling be unconditional.”
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The Center for Food Safety is a national, non-profit, membership organization founded in 1997 to protect human health and the environment by curbing the use of harmful food production technologies and by promoting organic and other forms of sustainable agriculture. CFS currently represents over 125,000 members across the nation. Materials about GE fish including fact sheets, sign-on letters and testimony delivered to the VMAC are available on the web at: www.ge-fish.org
*CFS has worked with many states to pass laws and regulations on GE fish: California, Washington, Oregon, Maryland, Michigan, Florida and Alaska have all passed laws or rules regulating GE salmon, and Alaska requires labeling for any GE fish product.