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Connecticut Politics

Grocery chains announce refusal to sell engineered salmon

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A genetically engineered salmon nearing approval by the Food and Drug Administration, after waiting 17 years, will not reach some store shelves.

A coalition of environmental and consumer groups announced Wednesday that they have secured promises from several U.S. grocery chains that they will not carry the fish. These include Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Aldi, and PCC Natural Markets in Washington state. Most of the biggest supermarket chains are not participating.

Having lost the battle last November over California’s Prop. 37 initiative to require labeling of genetically engineered foods, activists are applying pressure now via retailers. It’s not such a tough sell, as genetically engineered food polls very poorly with the public and Prop. 37 was defeated only after food companies spent millions to bury it.

Whole Foods announced that it would label all products containing genetically engineered ingredients by 2018, and on Tuesday, the Natural Products Association called for a national labeling standard.

The salmon would be the first transgenic animal to enter the food supply. Obama administration has given preliminary approval and extended the public comment period until April 26.

Engineered by AquaBounty Technologies of Massachusetts, the engineered fish is trademarked AquAdvantage® Salmon, or AAS. The company says it can grow twice as fast as natural salmon, but “in all other respects” is “identical to other Atlantic salmon.”

The company calls it “an environmentally sustainable alternative to current farmed salmon. AAS will be grown as sterile, all-female populations in land-based facilities with redundant biological and physical containment. As a result, AquAdvantage® Salmon cannot escape or reproduce in the wild and pose no threat to wild salmon populations.” It claims the fish is better than regular farmed salmon in that it will “reduce the environmental impact on coastal areas, eliminate the threat of disease transfer from farms to wild fish and grow more fish with less feed….AquAdvantage® Salmon is the future of salmon aquaculture.”

The Senate last spring narrowly defeated an amendment by Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski to study the fish. The Alaska state senate may soon approve a resolution opposing the fish. Environmental Working Group opened a new campaign earlier this month to pressure the FDA to require labeling.

Categories: Food
Carolyn Lochhead

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