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FDA Lifts Import Ban on Genetically Engineered Salmon

March 11, 2019
Center for Food Safety

FDA Lifts Import Ban on Genetically Engineered Salmon 

Consumer, Native, and Environmental Groups Decry FDA Decision 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Center for Food Safety (CFS), Friends of the Earth, Quinault Indian Nation, and Feed Seven Generations decried the FDA's decision to lift the 2016 import alert that banned genetically engineered salmon from entering the U.S.

"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," said George Kimbrell, Legal Director at the Center for Food Safety. "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." 

Dana Perls, Senior Food Policy Campaigner with Friends of the Earth, warned, "FDA's decision to allow GMO salmon onto the U. S. market runs counter to sound science and market demand. More than 80 retailers have said they won't sell this risky, unlabeled GMO fish and polls show consumers don't want it."

"FDA's unilateral decision, without tribal consultation, is an alarming signal that our sacred and prized wild salmon is now even more vulnerable to external markets and ecological threats," said Fawn Sharp, President of the Quinault Indian Nation. "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."

"By lifting the ban on genetically engineered salmon, FDA has put American consumers at serious risk and has directly attacked the life ways of Pacific Northwest Tribal communities," said Valerie Segrest, Muckleshoot Tribal Member and Executive Director of Feed Seven Generations."They have done this without a single tribal consultation, which violates their legal responsibility, mandating that they consult with tribes. Clearly this is an appropriation of our culture and this action will lead to inevitable contamination and irreversible damage to our food system."

In every year since 2015, Senator Murkowski (R-AK) has inserted a requirement into FDA appropriations language that requires FDA to issue mandatory labeling guidelines for GE salmon, using clear, on-package labeling stating that these fish are genetically engineered. FDA claims that the USDA new "bioengineered food" labeling guidelines are adequate, but the USDA "bioengineered" guidelines do not require explicitly labeling GE salmon as "genetically engineered." Moreover, companies could choose to hide the label using a QR code, rather than on-package labeling.

George Kimbrell, Legal Director at the Center for Food Safety, also announced that CFS is examining possible legal actions to force the FDA to comply with the Murkowski amendment. CFS and Earthjustice are leading the legal challenge to whether the FDA even has the legal authority to approve this genetically engineered fish as a "new animal drug".

More information on the health and environmental risks of genetically engineered salmon, a full list of stores that have made commitments to not sell genetically engineered seafood and salmon, a list of coalition partners, and letters letters sent to companies by Friends of the Earth U.S., Center for Food Safety, and allies are available at www.gefreeseafood.org.

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