To Learn More, Check Out:
- Resources on GE Salmon and Northwest Native Resistance
- Oppose GE Salmon: Support Northwest Tribal Food Sovereignty (2- page backgrounder)
We recently hosted a Wild Salmon Cook-out to Stand with Northwest Tribes to Stop GE Fish!
For More Information See Our:
- Press Release: Cook-out Event Honors Northwest Tribal Opposition to GE Salmon
- Report-Back with Media Round-Up
- Full Length Recording of The Event on Youtube
- Genetically Engineered Salmon: A Profit-making Frankenfish for Whom?
- Resources on GE Salmon and Northwest Native Resistance
Supporting NW Tribal Opposition to the Introduction of GE Salmon
Salmon is a cultural and ecological keystone species in the Northwest, making the approval of GE salmon a distinct point of concern for communities in this region. Muckleshoot Tribal Member, Native Foods Educator, and founder of Muckleshoot Food Sovereignty Project, Valerie Segrest (pictured in photo), explains that “the Coast Salish people have organized their lives around salmon for thousands of years” and “corporate ownership of such a cultural keystone is a direct attack on our identity and the legacy our ancestors have left us.” As a result, Northwest tribes and tribal members have voiced strong concerns around the potential impacts of corporations producing and distributing GE salmon, and have initiated political opposition at state and national levels in response to the biotech firm, AquaBounty Inc.’s submission for approval to market GE salmon in the U.S.
CAGJ’s campaign to stop genetically engineered (GE) salmon builds on our previous work highlighting the role of fishermen in the food sovereignty movement. In 2014 Niaz Dorry, Executive Director of Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance gave the keynote at CAGJ’s SLEE Dinner, and Valerie Segrest spoke about the resolution she brought to her tribe opposing GE salmon. In 2015, CAGJ’s Food Justice Project chose GE salmon as the focus for our Local Producers Solidarity Campaign, and we worked with Friends of the Earth to pressure Costco to not sell genetically modified fish. In November 2015, on the same day that the FDA approved the safety of GE salmon for human consumption, Costco finally announced that they had no plans to sell GE salmon if it comes to market.
In 2016 CAGJ began collaborating with NW tribal members to raise awareness around tribal relationships to salmon, and the potential cultural, economic, and ecological impacts at stake for communities if GE salmon goes on the market.
Background on NW Tribal Opposition
The AquAdvantage Salmon is an Atlantic salmon developed by the biotech company AquaBounty Technologies by artificially combining growth hormone genes from Chinook salmon and DNA from the anti-freeze genes of an eel-like ocean pout. This modification causes the production of growth hormone year-round, creating a fish that the company claims grows at twice the rate of conventionally farmed salmon. Yet, Mike Crewson of the Tulalip Tribes Natural Resource Department has noted that “cheaper, quickly-maturing, genetically-engineered salmon grown in hatcheries are just another gimmick that takes the focus off of the need to protect and restore salmon habitat and rebuild self-sustaining wild salmon populations. Essentially, this undermines the Tribes’ and other’s salmon recovery focus on rebuilding natural salmon runs by restoring habitat and protecting the environment needed to support healthy natural and hatchery production.”
Virginia Cross, Muckleshoot Tribal Council Chair, has stated that “genetically engineered salmon not only threaten our way of life, but could also adversely affect our treaty rights to take fish at our usual and accustomed places.” To address these concerns, many tribes and tribal members have joined together to block the approval of GE salmon and prevent its market development since 2014:
- The Muckleshoot Indian Tribe and the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians (ATNI) called on the FDA to deny all applications to distribute genetically engineered salmon in the U.S. without prior completion of an Environmental Impact Statement and scientific review that sufficiently consulted with Northwest Treaty Tribes.
- The National Congress of American Indians joined this effort, and passed a resolution to “oppose the introduction of and sale of genetically engineered salmon in the United States if the FDA decides to allow it and requests tribal consultation on the matter before any action by the FDA.”
- In July 2016, Quinault Nation joined the lawsuit against the FDA for approving AquaBounty’s genetically engineered salmon.
CAGJ is excited to partner with the Muckleshoot Tribe to raise awareness about the implications of GE salmon for our region, which is so strongly connected with this species, and to work together in service of the cultures, economies, and ecosystems of our region. We are grateful for a $5,000 grant from the tribe to enable CAGJ to raise awareness on this critical issue.
What is GE salmon?
Source: Friends of the Earth
Does the public support the approval of genetically engineered fish and animals?
Polls show that 91 percent of Americans do not want the FDA to allow GE fish and meat into the marketplace and 95 percent of consumers believe GE food animals should be labeled. To date, nearly 400,000 public comments and joint letters from over 300 environmental, consumer, health, and animal welfare organizations, along with members of Congress, salmon and fishing groups and associations, food companies, chefs and restaurants have been sent to the FDA demanding the agency reject this application and require mandatory labeling of genetically engineered fish if they are approved.
Will genetically engineered fish harm the environment?
FDA has not yet sufficiently studied the full range of risks escaped or released AquAdvantage Salmon may pose to the environment. Studies on Coho salmon with an engineered growth hormone similar to the AquAdvantage Salmon found that genetically engineered salmon were more aggressive when searching for food (the growth hormone made them hungrier), and in some instances resorted to cannibalism. The aggressive behavior evident in genetically engineered salmon led to population crashes and even the complete extinction of some wild salmon species in the study. Other research has shown that a release of just 60 genetically engineered fish in a population of 60,000 could lead to the extinction of the wild population in less than 40 generations. FDA must more thoroughly consider these and other potential risks before allowing commercialization of AquAdvantage Salmon.
AquaBounty’s egg production facility on Prince Edward Island was infected with Infectious Salmon Anemia in 2009, which it initially failed to report to the FDA. This virus is extremely deadly to salmon and has decimated the Chilean and Scottish salmon farming industries. If this or other diseases were to break out at genetically engineered fish farms and then those fish escaped, they could wreak havoc on wild fish populations. Declines in wild salmon could also cause massive harm to fishers and fishing communities on both coasts.
Is genetically engineered fish safe to eat?
Unfortunately, the FDA decided these fish will be safe to eat based solely on data provided by AquaBounty. Of potential concern to human health is the fact that, according to data submitted to FDA, overall all GE salmon have 40 percent higher levels of the hormone called IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor 1), which may increase the risk of certain cancers if absorbed and biologically active in the human body. In addition, the findings on allergy risk were based on only six fish. The fact is that the science is simply not there to say whether or not genetically fish are safe to eat and further studies are needed. Many people eat salmon because of its health benefits, but unfortunately it appears that genetically engineered salmon is less nutritious than other salmon. Genetically engineered salmon have been found to have a lower omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acid ratio than other salmon, 15 percent less than conventionally farmed salmon and 65 percent less than wild salmon.
Will genetically engineered fish be labeled?
Probably not. The FDA has stated it will likely not require genetically engineered salmon to be labeled, providing consumers no way of knowing whether the fish sold at their grocery store is genetically engineered. This may lead to market confusion and people choosing to avoid salmon entirely.