woodleywonderworks/FlickrE-mails show federal scientists are not happy with FDA's pending approval of GMO salmon.
The federal government’s safety review of genetically engineered salmon may be faulty, misinformed and in violation of its own laws, according to a flurry of documents released by a watchdog group in recent weeks.
Although a final decision has not yet been made, the FDA announced its tentative approval of the fish in February and a public comment period closed last Monday, bringing the agency one step closer to announcing its final decision.
Earlier this month, Food and Water Watch, an environmental watchdog group, posted a series of e-mails and internal U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service documents they acquired through the Freedom of Information Act.
The e-mails show concern among Fish and Wildlife Service officials who said they were not involved in the FDA’s decision, that the service had not been consulted by the FDA, and that FDA’s decision could pose serious risk to the endangered Atlantic salmon.
In one e-mail, a wildlife service geneticist expressed concern about the data the FDA used to show that the genetically engineered salmon will be sterile and unable to breed:
There is no data to support the claims of low survival in the event of escape, which I agree with you all is a big concern. I also agree ... that using a triploid (genetically sterile) fish is not foolproof. Maybe they should watch Jurassic Park :)
In another e-mail, the wildlife service’s Fisheries and Habitat Restoration branch chief in Fairbanks wrote this:
Approval of the proposal is premature, given the unknowns and uncertainties regarding the possible ecological and environmental effects of these fish. The proposal also presents a situation where FDA, whose jurisdiction is not focused on natural resources, is entrusted with the authority to approve an application which poses such a threat to the country’s natural resources.
Scientists from both the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of Interior also wrote letters to the FDA expressing concern over the agency’s review of environmental impacts and risks, saying the FDA fell short in providing a reliable environmental risk assessment.
And just last week, the journal Science published a letter from a team of Duke University scientists who reiterated the Fish and Wildlife’s concerns that the FDA’s review fell short of environmental safety standards, as well as health safety.
"Instead of focusing on the safety of a food taken one portion at a time, or whether it was produced through genetic modifications or through classic breeding, a more useful approach would be to evaluate whether society is better off overall with the new product on the market than without it,” the authors wrote.
The Fish and Wildlife Service did not immediately respond to requests for comment, nor did the Food and Drug Administration.