Thousands across U.S. deliver letters demanding that Costco say no to genetically engineered salmon
WASHINGTON, D.C. — This week more than 18,000 people will deliver letters to Costco Wholesale Corporationstores across the U.S. as part of a national week of action organized by Friends of the Earth, Center for Food Safety and allies urging the retail giant to make a commitment not sell genetically engineered (GE) salmon should it be approved by the FDA.
In June, a coalition including Community Alliance for Global Justice, fishermen, members of UFCW Local 21 and concerned Costco customers rallied in front of the Costco next door to store headquarters in Issaquah, Wash. and presented more than 300,000 petition signatures gathered by Center for Food Safety, Friends of the Earth, Food & Water Watch, Food Democracy Now!, Sum of Us, Community Alliance for Global Justice, Campaign for Safe Food, and Organic Consumers Association, urging that Costco publicly commit to not sell GMO salmon.
Costco responded that it does not plan to sell GE salmon, but left open the possibility that it may sell GE salmon if approved by the FDA. Due to a campaign 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. Although Costco is one of the largest retailers of salmon and seafood in the U.S., it hasn’t yet made a similar public commitment.
“We are asking Costco to stand behind the science, be a true leader in seafood sustainability and listen to the majority of consumers who do not want to eat genetically engineered fish,” said Dana Perls, food and technology policy campaigner with Friends of the Earth. “More than 60 of Costco’s competitors have committed to not sell GMO salmon -- Costco needs to catch up and provide its customers with what they want: natural, sustainable seafood that isn’t genetically engineered in a lab.”
Already, 13 species of salmon are endangered or threatened in the Columbia River basin, the area neighboring Costco’s Seattle area headquarters. A growing body of science indicates that GE salmon pose environmental and health risks, and that AquaBounty’s data is incomplete and inaccurate. A recently released draft risk assessment from Canadian scientists showed new evidence that GE salmon cannot grow more quickly than conventional salmon, which had been one of AquaBounty’s key marketing claims. The risk assessment also noted that GE salmon have a higher susceptibility to disease-causing bacteria, indicating unique animal health concerns in this genetically engineered fish.
“Genetically engineered salmon would harm the environment, pollute the genetics of native salmon, and undermine the livelihood of fishermen. Retailers like Costco need to take a public stand in fully rejecting any potential GE salmon, and instead embrace sustainable seafood options,” said Jaydee Hanson, senior policy analyst for Center for Food Safety.
“Salmon are already endangered in the Pacific Northwest,” said Heather Day, executive director of Community Alliance for Global Justice. “As a major corporation based in this region, Costco needs to be responsible stewards of wild salmon and reject GMO salmon.”
"Health-conscious consumers believe GMO salmon has no place on our plates, in our stores or in our environment," said Katherine Paul, associate director of the Organic Consumers Association. "This is especially true in a country where consumers have yet to win the right to know, via simple, clear labels, whether or not their food has been genetically engineered. Costco cannot promote itself as a purveyor of 'sustainable' seafood on the one hand, and keep the door open to unlabeled GMO salmon on the other."
Nearly two 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 GE salmon pose to human health, environment and wild salmon. Despite this outcry, the FDA is still considering GE 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.
“The risks that genetically engineered salmon pose to our health and the environment are too great," said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. "It's time for the FDA to deny the application for this unsustainable and unnecessary new genetically engineered food.”
“The science behind GMO salmon is as shoddy as it comes. For example, AquaBounty used only six genetically engineered fish as controls for tests of human allergenicity,” said Dave Murphy, executive director of Food Democracy Now! “This is laughable and wouldn’t even qualify for a 5th grade science fair, but for some reason Costco wants to put these untested new frankenfish on their shelves.”