Today, Center for Food Safety and the Seikatsu Club Consumers’ Co-operative Union (SCCCU) of Japan, jointly opposed the commercialization of the genetically engineered (GE) salmon recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The novel fish is the first ever GE animal approved for human consumption, and many concerns over risks to human and environmental health remain. Collectively, the two organizations represent over a million members straddling both sides of the Pacific. Center for Food Safety experts were recently in Japan discussing the need for mandatory GE food labeling and the harms of increased pesticide use on GE crops.
“We are determined to urge the Japanese government not to approve this GE salmon. Japanese consumers will firmly reject any GE salmon,” said Koichi Kato, president of Seikatsu Club Consumers’ Co-operative Union (SCCCU) of Japan. SCCCU has 350,000 members all over Japan. “Of course, our co-op will never sell such salmon.”
Japan is one of the largest importers of seafood in the world. Above all, salmon is very popular among Japanese consumers. Japan imported nearly 200 billion yen (approximately 2 billion U.S. dollars) worth of salmon and trout in 2014. “If the Japanese government also approves GE salmon, it will be labeled as GE when sold at grocery stores. The GE salmon is sure to get a cold reception,” said Kato. On the other hand, restaurants and most processed foods are exempted from Japanese GE food labeling law. “I am concerned that people will be forced to eat GE salmon without noticing that it is GE,” added Kato.
“FDA’s decision to approve this GE salmon was irresponsible and unlawful, and it will have global repercussions,” said George Kimbrell, senior attorney at Center for Food Safety, who recently met with partners in Tokyo. “We are honored to join with our colleagues in Japan in opposing GE fish and the Aquabounty salmon. Together we will work to stop its expansion in order to preserve our native fisheries and protect the markets so many depend on around the world.”
In the U.S., public rejection of the GE salmon has also been strong. Leading up to the FDA’s approval, over 2 million people filed public comments with the FDA opposing it, the largest number of comments the FDA has ever received on an action. In addition, over 9,500 U.S. grocery stores and numerous restaurants have vowed not to sell the GE fish.
GE salmon has the potential to cause environmental harms, and also poses a risk for consumers. In particular, the FDA did very limited testing for allergenicity problems in its approval of the fish. In addition, AquaBounty has faced criticism for failing to follow basic environmental regulations in Panama, where the experimental fish are being raised. Environmental groups in Canada have sued that country’s government for allowing the GE salmon eggs to be produced there, potentially putting ecosystems and species such as wild salmon at risk.