GE Salmon Labeling Up for Vote in California

Genetically engineered salmon could pose serious risks to wild populations of salmon, many of which are currently threatened or endangered. On Thursday, January 19, the California State Assembly will vote on legislation to require that all genetically engineered (GE) fish sold in California be labeled as “genetically engineered.”

The Consumer Right To Know Act, AB 88, introduced by Assemblymember Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael), protects the public’s right to know how their food is produced while the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reviews the first-ever proposed commercialization of salmon genetically engineered to mature more quickly.

If approved, it would be the first GE animal approved for sale for human consumption. In the event the sale is approved by FDA, AB 88 would require labeling of the GE salmon to inform consumers. The Just Label It Campaign supports the efforts to label GE food, including salmon, in California and urges voters in that state to stand up for their right to know what’s in their food.

Many health, environmental, and consumer organizations believe that GE fish should not be allowed into the food supply unless it is proven safe for humans and the environment and, if it’s approved by FDA, it should at least be labeled. There are still lingering questions about the safety and environmental impact of GE salmon. Given these, as well as other personal, health and societal concerns, consumers should be able to choose whether or not to buy GE salmon, even if the salmon is approved by the FDA.

Consumers overwhelmingly want to know whether the food they purchase and consume is genetically engineered for a variety of reasons, including risks to our native salmon species; the potential transfer of allergens and other health risks; concerns about potential environmental risks; and religiously or ethically based dietary restrictions.

Public opinion clearly and consistently supports mandatory labeling. Polls have shown that 95 percent of the public want labeling of GE animals, while other polls found that only 35 percent of the public said that they would be willing to eat seafood that has been genetically engineered. Consumers sent nearly 400,000 public comments to FDA demanding the agency reject GE salmon, or at the very least, require that it be labeled.

The FDA has stated publicly that it does not think labeling for GE foods is necessary because it does not consider GE foods to be “materially different” from conventionally grown foods. The only way consumers will know if the fish they buy is genetically engineered is if there is a clear label indicating that fact.

Labels placed on salmon can provide consumers with adequate information on whether or not the salmon they are purchasing is genetically engineered. Consumers should have transparency so they can make informed decisions about the salmon they buy.

If you live in California, ask your legislator to pass AB 88, and to require that all GE salmon sold in California to be clearly labeled. It’s your right to know what’s in your food.

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