retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The New York Times reports this morning that several supermarket chains - including Whole Foods, Trader Joe's and Aldi - have pledged "not to sell what could become the first genetically modified animal to reach the nation’s dinner plates — a salmon engineered to grow about twice as fast as normal."

The fish, called the AquAdvantage salmon, currently is awaiting final approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which already has announced that it believes that the fish is as safe to eat as traditional salmon and that its manufacture would have "no significant impact" on the environment. The fish comes from a company called AquaBounty, and the Times describes it as "a farmed Atlantic salmon that contains a growth hormone gene from the chinook salmon and a genetic switch from the ocean pout that keeps the transplanted gene continuously active. The salmon can grow to market weight in as little as half the time required by other farmed Atlantic salmon."

The Times notes that the chains are largely reacting to pressure from consumer and environmental organizations that oppose the marketing of the fish for human consumption because of fears "that the fish has not been tested adequately for safety and that it might outcompete wild salmon for food or mates should it ever escape. AquaBounty says its fish are sterilized and would be grown in inland tanks, with little chance of escape."

Under current FDA rules, if the salmon were to come to market it would not have to be described as being genetically engineered. Of course, that would not be the case at Whole Foods, if it sold the fish - it recently announced that by 2018 it will require all its suppliers to label products containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
KC's View:
In the long run, I firmly believe that the approach advocated by some manufacturers and the FDA - that the public does not need or deserve to have this information - is misguided and eventually will come back to bite them. Transparency about issues that concern people ought to be a top priority ... and in a 21st century climate of high tech instant communication, there really is no other option.

And BTW... The Natural Products Association (NPA) Board of Directors this week called "for all foods containing genetically-modified organisms to be accurately labeled under a national uniform standard so consumers can make educated decisions about foods they purchase," saying that "a national standard is the best, most cost-effective and least-confusing way to deliver on this commitment for American consumers."