Is Genetically Engineered Food the Food of the Future?

By John McQuaid, "Is This the Food of the Future?," March/April 2011

Super salmon, enviropigs, blemish-free apples—What does the new wave of genetically engineered foods mean for our health and our planet?

“Achieving those multiple levels of confinement is going to be harder and harder as you expand to other facilities,” Kapuscinski told me. In a comment filed with the FDA, she and a colleague asked, “Does the FDA have the staff, financial resources and sufficient overseas jurisdiction for adequate surveillance of diverse domestic and foreign hatcheries and grow-out facilities?” Kapuscinski also says the environmental studies AquaBounty submitted to the FDA didn’t take the next step to assess environmental impacts if fish do escape in Panama, let alone in unknown other countries. Nor has AquaBounty presented response plans for worst-case scenarios—something that, with groundbreaking technologies, it’s usually unwise to omit. She and other scientists are urging the FDA to require a full-blown environmental impact assessment, something that would drag out the approval process by an additional year or longer.

If the FDA approves the AquAdvantage salmon, the newest supermarket fish-counter quandary will soon be upon us. And if approval is delayed or denied, there are other GE fish in the queue: AquaBounty itself is touting fast-growing GE tilapia and trout. Sooner or later, it seems, food from transgenic animals is inevitable. That’s why food-safety and environmental groups are pushing that it be labeled as such, which isn’t currently required under U.S. law (and is opposed by most of the biotech industry, which fears squeamish consumers will reject their products). Given the issues and uncertainties surrounding these foods, transparency seems a small price to pay.

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