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5-Animals: US restaurants and grocers asked to avoid transgenic fish

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-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  Restaurants and grocers asked to avoid transgenic fish
SOURCE: Environmental News Network
DATE:   October 22, 2001

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Restaurants and grocers asked to avoid transgenic fish

Three environmental groups are asking seafood retailers across the United 
States to pledge not to sell genetically engineered fish and to oppose 
their commercialization.

Citing potential negative human health effects and a threat to the genetic 
purity of wild salmon, Friends of the Earth, the Center for Food Safety, 
and Clean Water Action announced a new campaign on Oct. 18 that aims to 
prevent the commercialization of genetically engineered fish.

Transgenic fish of various species of salmon, tilapia, channel catfish and 
others are being actively investigated worldwide as possible new food 
producing varieties.

The groups cite a pending application to the U.S. Food and Drug 
Administration (FDA) for market approval of an experimental salmon 
developed by Aqua Bounty Farms, also known as A/F Protein. The company 
describes itself as a development-stage biotechnology company with offices 
in the United States and Canada.

A/F Protein developed the transgenic fish technology out of its research on 
fish species living in the high north that have a compound in their blood 
that lowers the freezing point of the whole fish so that they are safe from 
freezing through the frigid Arctic winters.

The Food and Drug Administration could approve the application at any time, 
the groups fear, putting the first engineered fish on American dinner 
plates, grocery shelves and in restaurants across the country.

Linda Setchell, campaign coordinator for Clean Water Action New England 
believes that if the groups can block demand for transgenic fish and 
educate the market to its potential dangers, they can buy time for further 
safety testing.

"If the market for transgenic fish disappears, so will the drive to rush 
this untested technology into the marine environment," she said.

Tracie Letterman of the Center for Food Safety, says, "adequate independent 
studies of the health effects of eating these fish have not been conducted."

The groups have contacted more than 50 seafood outlets to ask for their 
support. Grocers include Kroger, Safeway and Trader Joe's, while 
restaurants include Long John Silver, Applebee's and Legal Seafoods, and 
bagel companies include Einstein Brothers Bagels and Chesapeake Bagel 

"Most people do not want to eat genetically engineered fish. We hope that 
companies that sell seafood will reflect public concern for health and the 
environment by making a pledge not to sell these fish," said Lisa Ramirez, 
campaign coordinator for Friends of the Earth.

A Purdue University study published in Proceedings of the National Academy 
of Science in November 1999 showed that the release of just 60 engineered 
fish into a population of 60,000 naturally occurring fish would cause the 
wild fish species to become extinct within only a few generations.

To persuade the grocers and restauranteurs that it is in their best 
interest to avoid transgenic fish, the groups are emphasizing the liability 
risk companies could face if the fish turn out to be harmful or were to 
inadvertently enter supplies without federal approval.

In a contamination incident last year that might parallel problems with 
transgenic fish, the mixing of StarLink engineered corn into the food 
supply caused Taco Bell to lose $60 million in sales, Kraft Foods to recall 
over 25 million taco shells, and the price of corn to drop.

The transgenic Starlink corn was not approved for human consumption by the 
federal government due to concern that it might trigger allergies.

Of particular ecological concern to the environmental groups are salmon 
populations on the Pacific and Atlantic coasts already listed under the 
Endangered Species Act that could be further undermined by the release of 
engineered salmon.

Genetically engineered salmon are designed to grow between 10 and 30 times 
faster than natural salmon. They would be raised in marine aquaculture 
operations for sale to stores and restaurants.

"Unintended releases of transgenic fish into the world's waters would be 
inevitable as hundreds of thousands of conventional farmed fish escape 
every year," the groups warn.

No federal laws specifically govern the regulation of genetically 
engineered animals grown for human consumption, but the FDA has made the 
informal decision to regulate genetically engineered fish under its 
authority to review new animal drugs.

Concerned about the potential toxicity, allergenicity, and aquaculture 
diseases posed by the commercialization of transgenic fish, the campaign 
members organized over 70 other organizations and individuals to join in 
the filing of legal petitions earlier this year to several federal agencies 
requesting a moratorium on the approval of transgenic fish until they have 
been properly reviewed.

The FDA acknowledges that, "The primary environmental concerns about 
releases of transgenic fish, for example, include competition with wild 
populations, movement of the transgene into the wild gene pool, and 
ecological disruptions due to changes in prey and other niche requirements 
in the transgenic variety versus the wild populations."

The government agency admits, "Ethical concerns among the public over the 
appropriate use of animals are issues, not evident with transgenic plants, 
that may affect public acceptance of transgenic animals as food sources."

[to read more about the FoE activities, go to; GENET, HM]


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