San Francisco, CA — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is being sued by a coalition of environmental, consumer, commercial and recreational fishing organizations because of the government agency’s approval of AquAdvantage Atlantic Salmon, the first genetically engineered animal approved for human consumption. Receiving legal council from the Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice, the plaintiffs include Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, Institute for Fisheries Resources, Golden Gate Salmon Association, Kennebec Reborn, Friends of Merrymeeting Bay, Ecology Action Centre, Food & Water Watch, Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, Cascadia Wildlands, and Center for Food Safety.
The lawsuit challenges FDA’s claim that it has the authority to approve and regulate genetically engineered animals as “animal drugs” under the 1938 Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, which was originally intended to ensure the safety of veterinary drugs used to treat disease in livestock. “FDA’s decision is as unlawful as it is irresponsible,” said George Kimbrell, senior attorney for Center for Food Safety and co-counsel for the plaintiffs. “This case is about protecting our fisheries and ocean ecosystems from the foreseeable harms of the first-ever GE fish, harms FDA refused to even consider, let alone prevent. But it’s also about the future of our food: FDA should not, and cannot, responsibly regulate this GE animal, nor any future GE animals, by treating them as drugs under a 1938 law.”
The lawsuit also highlights FDA’s failure to consult wildlife agencies, which it is required by federal law. Because Atlantic salmon and many populations of Pacific salmon are endangered, they are protected by the Endangered Species Act. Detractors of the genetically modified salmon fear that it can escape or be accidentally released into the wild, threatening natural salmon populations. This is considered both an environmental and economic threat. “The law requires agencies like FDA, who aren’t fisheries biologists, to get review and approval from scientists with that expertise. FDA’s refusal to do this before allowing commercialization of GE salmon is not only irresponsible, it violates the law,” said Ed Friedman from Friends of Merrymeeting Bay, one of the parties who had successfully petitioned to classify most Maine Atlantic Salmon as endangered.
Published in WholeFoods Magazine Online 3/31/2016