Published July 16, 2016
TAHOLAH, WASHINGTON —The Quinault Indian Nation joined 11 other plaintiffs in filing a suit in US District Court against the US Food and Drug Administration for approving genetically modified salmon, an unnatural animal created by AquaBounty from the genetic material of three fish, Atlantic salmon, Pacific salmon and ocean eel pout. This is the first genetically engineered animal ever approved for sale as food anywhere in the world.
“This is clearly a case of FDA violating its mandate and purpose,” said Fawn Sharp, President of the Quinault Nation and of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians as well as Vice President of the National Congress of American Indians. “It is FDA’s job to assure that the food and drugs people consume in this country are safe for people and the environment. The agency does not have the expertise to make this decision, and it apparently has little knowledge about the environmental impacts of these new genetically engineered animals.”
The FDA approved the GE salmon under its New-Deal-Era authority of the 1930’s to regulate “animal drugs” such as veterinary medicines.
“That does not qualify them to sanction entirely new man-made animals as food,” said President Sharp.
Genetically engineered salmon that escape containment can harm endangered wild salmon populations by interbreeding or outcompeting for food. Under FDA’s approval, the GE salmon will undertake a journey halfway around the globe to reach a US dinner plate. The company plans to produce the salmon eggs in a lab in Prince of Edward Island, Canada, transport the eggs to Panama to be raised and processed, and then transport the filets to the US for sale.
AquaBounty has repeatedly said it intends to grow its GE salmon in the US and other locations around the world, but FDA’s approval only considered the current plans for these far-flung facilities in Canada and Panama, leaving the risk of escape and contamination of US and other salmon runs unstudied.
“Although there are obvious risks to our salmon, the Food and Drug Administration surged forward with its approval. The agency didn’t consider treaty rights. It didn’t even involve federal wildlife agencies. It simply did not consider how these man-created animals, engineered to grow twice as big as natural salmon, will affect the fish provided to us by our Creator. All they heard was very flimsy assurance from AquaBounty that their ‘Frankenfish’ would not escape—something that has been disproved many times,” said President Sharp.
In the past decade, GE crops have repeatedly escaped confinement, despite industry and U.S. government assurances that they would not. These escapes have cost U.S. farmers literally billions of dollars in lost markets and sales, to GE-contamination sensitive domestic and export markets. Escape and contamination risks are even greater here, with a highly migratory fish that could threaten some of the last remaining wild salmon on the planet, said President Sharp.
Joining Quinault Nation as plaintiffs in the suit are the Institute for Fisheries Resources, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, the Golden Gate Salmon Association, Kennebec Reborn, Friends of Merry Meeting Bay, Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity, Ecology Action Centre, Friends of the Earth, Food and Water Watch and the Center for Food Safety. The groups are represented by the Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice.
Also named as defendents are Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services, Dr. Robert M. Califf, M.D., Commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.