The latest announcement by the US government's FDA that it is set to approve the sale of genetically engineered salmon raises food safety concerns for New Zealand (1).
New Zealand has signed a world-first mutual recognition agreement with the FDA announced last month (2), and there is concern that New Zealand consumers could be forced to accept salmon that has been genetically engineered to accelerate its growth.
The FDA decision has caused alarm in the United States (3) because the GE fish could be sold without any safety testing and would not be labelled, leaving consumers 'none the wiser'.
GE-free NZ (in food and environment) has written an urgent request for information to Kate Wilkinson - Minister for food safety, seeking guarantees that the New Zealand government will require feeding trials be conducted to prove food safety before the GE salmon can be considered for sale here.
The public also need to know that New Zealand will not be forced into allowing importation of GE salmon without it being labelled.
The FDA has used the idea of 'substantial equivalence' (4) to explain why it will not require independent feeding studies of the new GE fish. The food safety risks of fast-growing GE salmon have been deemed insignificant by the FDA, despite the absence of independent research into potential heath or epigenetic effects.
"The FDA is ignoring American consumers. We want the Minister to reassure consumers in New Zealand that no GE salmon will be sold unlabelled and untested in this country," says Jon Carapiet, national spokesman for GE-free NZ (in food and environment).
Experiments with GE salmon took place in New Zealand until it was revealed that some of the GE fish had deformed heads. There was also a threat to bio-security as the mesh from the experimental tanks was discovered to have been inadequate to prevent escape of GE salmon eggs into the environment (5).
The unique mutual-recognition agreement with the FDA may already be backfiring by putting New Zealanders at risk from experimental GE fish that could be forced into our market without food safety tests and without labelling to allow consumers the choice to avoid it.
New Zealand must withdraw from its agreement with the FDA and reject the TPP trade negotiations, if the price to pay is forced acceptance of lower safety standards, or "deception marketing" that deliberately keeps consumers in the dark in order to sell GE salmon.
1) On December 21, 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released an Environmental Assessment (EA) with a �Finding of No Significant Impact� on AquaBounty AquaAdvantage transgenic salmon.
Media Contact: Jon Carapiet - 0210507681