Largest US Retailers Reject GMO Salmon as Court Pressure Builds

by Sustainable Pulse

Walmart, Costco, Albertsons, Kroger, Ahold, Aldi, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, H-E-B, Hy-Vee, Sprouts, Giant Eagle, Meijer and Target have affirmed their commitment to not sell genetically engineered AquAdvantage® salmon ahead of AquaBounty Technologies planned first-ever harvest and commercial sales in the U.S., planned for this fall.

The news comes following the court hearing last week, in which a federal judge in California looked poised to rule in favor of environmental groups afraid of GMO salmon’s potential to blunt wild salmon populations, thus blocking the FDA’s approval of the fish.

Friends of the Earth released an updated list Tuesday of 80 grocery retailers, seafood companies, food service companies and restaurants with more than 18,000 locations nationwide that have stated that they will not sell genetically engineered salmon, demonstrating a widespread market rejection of the first commercial offerings of the first genetically engineered animal approved for human consumption in the U.S.

“Genetically engineered salmon pose unacceptable risks to wild salmon and broader ecosystems. People across the country have made it clear that they don’t want to eat genetically engineered salmon, and food retailers are clearly listening,” said Dana Perls, food and technology program manager at Friends of the Earth.

“We thank these forward-thinking retailers for their leadership.”

A growing body of science suggests that GE salmon may pose serious environmental risks including potentially irreversible damage to wild salmon populations. More research is needed on the potential health risks of this novel food.

The GE salmon was first approved for sale in the U.S. in 2015. In the wake of controversy over the U.S. approval, the U.S. instituted an import ban on GE salmon until labeling standards were established.

In 2019, the FDA lifted the ban on importation of GE salmon and eggs into the U.S. Consumers will not have a clear way to distinguish whether they’re buying GE salmon because of the lack of clear labeling requirements of GE foods under the USDA’s National Bioengineered Food Disclosure standard. Under this regulation, GE salmon would likely be labeled using a QR code instead of clear, on-package labeling. Companies are also allowed to use the term “bioengineered,” which may cause confusion among consumers.

AquaBounty Technologies’ AquAdvantage® salmon is genetically engineered with the DNA of an eel-like ocean pout to grow faster. Research has raised a range of potential ecological and socioeconomic threats associated with GE salmon, supporting the need for thorough risk assessment and strong regulation prior to commercialization.

The FDA’s decision on this genetically engineered salmon application could set a precedent for other genetically engineered fish and animals. At least 35 other species of genetically engineered fish — as well as chickens, pigs and cows engineered to fit in factory farming systems — are currently under development.  A full list of stores that have made commitments to not sell genetically engineered seafood and salmon is available here.

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