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August 28, 2014

Frankenfish or Cut Bait

When Barack Obama was campaigning in 2007, he said something that I’d been yearning to hear from a politician. He vowed, as president, he would strive to “let folks know when their food is genetically modified because Americans have a right to know what they’re buying.”

I realize the difference between campaigning and being president is much like the difference between dating and being married — but that seemed like a pretty solid statement.

Europe has required all foods containing ingredients genetically modified to be labeled since 1997. Fifty countries, including China and Russia, require food manufacturers to label GMOs. Forty percent of the world’s population can tell if they are feeding their families altered foods or not.

It has been four years, and we haven’t heard a peep from President Obama on this issue.

In November, the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act was on the ballot. It was simple: “The initiative would simply require food sold in retail outlets to be labeled if it contains genetically engineered ingredients.” It seemed like a no brainer since the labels already have to include calories, sugar grams, fats, sodium — why am I telling you? You’ve read them.

Monsanto (read “from the devil”) and agriculture corporations spent $45 million to defeat the California initiative. Why? Because they can’t compete in the “free market” — shoppers prefer their food closer to how God intended, at least genetically speaking, and don’t realize over 60 percent of what is on the grocery store shelves has been altered already.

OK, so this may not be your issue, or you may be aware of it for the first time, but here’s where I get fit to be tied.

ffish

For close to two decades AquaBounty, an outfit from Massachusetts, has been genetically modifying salmon. Apparently the whole spawning in gravel upriver, natural progression, years in the ocean and swimming back to the home creek is just pesky. It takes too long. They hybridize an Atlantic salmon with a chinook salmon gene and then sprinkle in a gene from an eel-like ocean pout that “keeps a vital growth hormone activated rather than shutting it down after a certain point” so it grows twice as fast. Does it have bolts sticking out under its gills? Mary Shelley wouldn’t eat this thing. This creature would be the first genetically modified animal to hit the market. (Lord only knows what kind of “just add water and get a veal” will come next.)

The Food and Drug Administration has been reviewing this “salmon” for some time. Last April its report was written on the safety of the product. What would it say? How could something genetically modified to GROW FASTER affect our already growing population? Inquiring minds would have to wait. The White House decided to keep it under wraps until after the election.

Shut up! No way! One of President Obama’s first memorandums claimed his administration would have scientific integrity. “Political officials should not suppress or alter scientific or technological findings and conclusions,” his official memorandum stated. “If scientific and technological information is developed and used by the federal government, it should ordinarily be made available to the public.”

Between President Bush and Governors Murkowski and Palin, those were welcome words to my ears.

They weren’t true.

The frankenfish findings from the FDA were politically modified as to most likely not “upset the base” by keeping us in the dark.

On Dec. 21, Slate and the Genetic Literacy Project published online investigations into whether the White House was interfering in a scientific review process by the FDA. Within hours the FDA released the study.

I’m furious on so many levels.

I believed Obama understood the right for American consumers to know where their food comes from … because HE SAID IT OUT LOUD. Silly me.

I bit the shiny hook of “scientific integrity.” I’ll own that one. I like to believe it when people tell me what I want to hear.

There is no way on God’s green earth that the Alaska wild salmon market won’t be affected. It costs more to run a boat, brave the seas and harvest natural fish runs than to set up some swimming pools in a field, throw feed in and watch the edible sea-monkeys grow.

We can’t put a label on Bristol Bay sockeye or the Copper River kings that says “Organic.” The federal agriculture standards won’t allow us because it can’t ensure that everything that fish ate in the ocean and river is really organic. A fish farm that feeds “organic pellets” to its pet salmon can use the label. So our wild salmon compete with the organic tame salmon — but the genetically modified fish won’t have a label that says it didn’t come the way God intended.

This issue should have never been a political one. Fish or cut bait, Mr. President.

 

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Comments
6 Responses to “Frankenfish or Cut Bait”
  1. Wondering... says:

    If they mix eel with the “genetically modified” fish do you get shocked when you eat it…pun intended…

    What do they mean it “takes too long” AKA investors are whining they are not rich quick enough…

    Why don’t they build greenhouses to grow all kinds of fruits and vegetables instead of wasting it on fish…

    There is plenty of fish and seafood species in Alaska year-round…even game meats for God’s sakes…

    What we don’t have is the fruits and vegetables to go with it…

  2. Alaska Pi says:

    Here is the article Shannyn references:

    http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2012/12/genetically_modified_salmon_aquadvantage_fda_assessment_is_delayed_possibly.html

    It does indeed raise the question whether the administration sat on the report for political reasons. I hope someone (s) stay on this until we find out what really happened. SSSSOOOOOO tired of manipulation in timing and disbursement of information and reports ( or burying of information a la whatzername ) for political reasons.

    However- as it has been released there is but a short window for public comment before it is all a done deal. need to go figure out how to do that.

    Of further note:
    For Americans- please note in the above article that close to 80% of the salmon consumed in this country is farmed salmon. Whether it is someday frankenfish or not, farmed salmon is a rotten, rotten way to run fisheries on many, many levels, some of which we are only just beginning to think through.

    Encouraging more fish farming is on OUR shoulders as America consumes 70% of the world’s seafood currently. This whole frankenfish dealie , with egg production in Canada and rearing in Panama (which the FDA thinks is adequate to protect the waters off our shores) is a fancy shell game to get this fish to OUR markets without taking any responsibility for fallout on all the other levels fish farming is related to.
    We are so in love with “cheap” goods in this country. It is going to bite our grandkids in the hineys if we don’t get our own in gear to break it off with the “cheap”-monster and its real costs.

    In 2010 79% of wild caught Alaska Salmon was exported- that is 186,600 metric tons of Alaskan
    salmon -went to China, Japan, and Europe.
    WTH?

    • Zyxomma says:

      Alaska Pi, this is true on so many levels! Cheap is rarely, if ever, a bargain. If we pay less, someone else is paying more than is affordable — with a despoiled environment, with a job that amounts to slave labor, with freshwater contaminated, with food crops that can feed a family replaced by genetically modified cotton as a crop that can be sold for cash, IF it doesn’t fail.

      All of us have a part to play. The next time you’re tempted by a $5 Walmart T-shirt, please take a moment first to have a little empathy for the farmer who grew the fiber, the workers who spun and sewed it, etc. If you can’t afford new clothes that were made ethically and sustainably (and not everyone can), buy used, whether charity thrift shop, designer resale, or curated vintage shop (brick and mortar or online, including ebay).

      I do not eat salmon or any other fish, but when I needed holiday presents last year, I purchased wild-caught glass-jar-canned salmon from UgaVic, a vendor who advertises here on The Mudflats. Everyone who got salmon was delighted, and I was happy to support the sustainable salmon industry in Alaska. All Frankenfood disgusts me, but this is the lowest the lawmakers have sunk.

  3. mike from iowa says:

    I held my nose and voted for Obama,but will never completely trust him to stand on any principles for anyone at anytime for any reason in any situation. No small wonder press secretaries have a useful shelf-life of mere months.

  4. Zyxomma says:

    I avoid genetically modified organisms in the food supply by buying organic. I don’t eat salmon (or any other fish), but I’ve signed a zillion petitions against Aquabounty’s garbage hitting the food supply.

    As an educator in holistic health, I’m appalled. Unfortunately, too many federal officials in seats of power put the interests of Monsanto (and Dow, Bayer, Syngenta, and the rest of the miscreants) ahead of ours.

    Now the fight moves to the state of Washington. Unfortunately, genetically modified alfalfa has been approved. This sux.

  5. mlaiuppa says:

    I look for the words “Pacific” and “Wild caught”.

    The Frankensalmon can’t use those words. Neither can Atlantic or farmed.

    That’s all I can do for now.

    I find it ironic Duncan is pushing STEM in our schools? Why? If they’re going to suppress scientific data or just plain lie.

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