The holidays are a time for heading home, recharging the batteries after a stressful year at work, guzzling alcohol with long-lost friends and eating carb-loaded/meat-heavy dishes with extended family. It's also a good time for government regulators to dump legislation that is, decidedly, not universally-beloved -- the lack of news cycles during the holidays lessens the blowback from the opposition.
This, after all, can only explain why American regulators decided to announce, just before Christmas, that the FDA finally concluded its investigation on GMO-"enhanced" salmon, and gave it the thumbs-up. Using their verbiage, they found that genetically-modified salmon will have "no significant impact" on the environment and are "as safe as food from conventional Atlantic salmon" for the fish-eating public.
(Note: Following the December 21st decision, the public has 60 days to comment, which most likely won't lead to changing anything.)
As the New York Times notes, the actual assessment is dated May 4th, suggesting the administration was waiting for just the right time to let the public know. You know, like after a giant election and, well, if you're going to wait that long, might as well wait until all legislation-followers are focused on something grand like the Fiscal Cliff debates, while everyone else is busy shopping for gifts and prepping Christmas dinner. It's almost as if, oh I don't know, the regulators had something to hide. Like, perhaps, this is something we should be worried about.
At least, that's the opinion of the many anti-GMO activists angered by the news. From the NY Times piece:
"The G.E. salmon has no socially redeeming value," Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety, a Washington advocacy group opposed to farm biotechnology, said in a statement. "It's bad for the consumer, bad for the salmon industry and bad for the environment. F.D.A.'s decision is premature and misguided."
There's also worry about a scenario that sounds like the synopsis to a low budget sci-fi movie, wherein the Frankenfish escape from whatever habitat they're created in, into the wild, cross-breed with normal fish, and create some kind of super-creature. No, not one that will be able to walk on land and devour us all. (Unfortunately.) More like we won't entirely know how their DNA will react to ours when we eat them. This, after all, was what the FDA testing on the genetically engineered fish was about in the first place.
The FDA's response, that those growing the fish will be doing so in secure environments, clearly isn't good enough for anti-GMO folks:
Peter Riley, of the pressure group GM Freeze, said: "The sterility system does not guarantee that there will be no escapes into the wild and some of them will be fully fertile. It's also debatable whether anyone wants to buy GM salmon, even in the US, if it is properly labelled."
The FDA counters this with a kind of awesome half-backwards/half-completely-logical argument that wouldn't feel out of place in a novel by Kurt Vonnegut: Even if the U.S. doesn't approve the production of Frankenfish, other countries will, so international waters will be getting contaminated anyway. All we're doing, therefore, is prolonging the inevitable if we don't okay the production of GM fish. Which is an argument that is impossible to argue with.
In any case, this is it. Genetically-modified fish are on their way. Get your stomachs ready. Too bad we Californians don't have an automatic way of, like, knowing which fish are GM and which are not through, let's say just off the top of my head here, a label of some kind.
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