Posted by: shannynmoore | January 5, 2013

What’s with the frankenfish, Mr. President?

Shannyn Moore for the Anchorage Daily News:

When Barack Obama was campaigning in 2007, he said something that I’d been yearning to hear from a politician. He vowed, as president, he would strive to “let folks know when their food is genetically modified because Americans have a right to know what they’re buying.”

I realize the difference between campaigning and being president is much like the difference between dating and being married — but that seemed like a pretty solid statement.

Europe has required all foods containing ingredients genetically modified to be labeled since 1997. Fifty countries, including China and Russia, require food manufacturers to label GMOs. Forty percent of the world’s population can tell if they are feeding their families altered foods or not.

It has been four years, and we haven’t heard a peep from President Obama on this issue.

In November, the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act was on the ballot. It was simple: “The initiative would simply require food sold in retail outlets to be labeled if it contains genetically engineered ingredients.” It seemed like a no brainer since the labels already have to include calories, sugar grams, fats, sodium — why am I telling you? You’ve read them.
Monsanto (read “from the devil”) and agriculture corporations spent $45 million to defeat the California initiative. Why? Because they can’t compete in the “free market” — shoppers prefer their food closer to how God intended, at least genetically speaking, and don’t realize over 60 percent of what is on the grocery store shelves has been altered already.

OK, so this may not be your issue, or you may be aware of it for the first time, but here’s where I get fit to be tied.

For close to two decades AquaBounty, an outfit from Massachusetts, has been genetically modifying salmon. Apparently the whole spawning in gravel upriver, natural progression, years in the ocean and swimming back to the home creek is just pesky. It takes too long. They hybridize an Atlantic salmon with a chinook salmon gene and then sprinkle in a gene from an eel-like ocean pout that “keeps a vital growth hormone activated rather than shutting it down after a certain point” so it grows twice as fast. Does it have bolts sticking out under its gills? Mary Shelley wouldn’t eat this thing. This creature would be the first genetically modified animal to hit the market. (Lord only knows what kind of “just add water and get a veal” will come next.)
The Food and Drug Administration has been reviewing this “salmon” for some time. Last April its report was written on the safety of the product. What would it say? How could something genetically modified to GROW FASTER affect our already growing population? Inquiring minds would have to wait. The White House decided to keep it under wraps until after the election.

Shut up! No way! One of President Obama’s first memorandums claimed his administration would have scientific integrity. “Political officials should not suppress or alter scientific or technological findings and conclusions,” his official memorandum stated. “If scientific and technological information is developed and used by the federal government, it should ordinarily be made available to the public.”

Between President Bush and Governors Murkowski and Palin, those were welcome words to my ears.

They weren’t true.

The frankenfish findings from the FDA were politically modified as to most likely not “upset the base” by keeping us in the dark.

On Dec. 21, Slate and the Genetic Literacy Project published online investigations into whether the White House was interfering in a scientific review process by the FDA. Within hours the FDA released the study.

I’m furious on so many levels.

I believed Obama understood the right for American consumers to know where their food comes from … because HE SAID IT OUT LOUD. Silly me.

I bit the shiny hook of “scientific integrity.” I’ll own that one. I like to believe it when people tell me what I want to hear.

There is no way on God’s green earth that the Alaska wild salmon market won’t be affected. It costs more to run a boat, brave the seas and harvest natural fish runs than to set up some swimming pools in a field, throw feed in and watch the edible sea-monkeys grow.

We can’t put a label on Bristol Bay sockeye or the Copper River kings that says “Organic.” The federal agriculture standards won’t allow us because it can’t ensure that everything that fish ate in the ocean and river is really organic. A fish farm that feeds “organic pellets” to its pet salmon can use the label. So our wild salmon compete with the organic tame salmon — but the genetically modified fish won’t have a label that says it didn’t come the way God intended.

This issue should have never been a political one. Fish or cut bait, Mr. President.


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