Federal funding of Frankenfish exposed
by Dan Bacher
California Progress Report
6 October 2011
Food and Water Watch, a national consumer advocacy group, on October 3 revealed that a corporation that has launched a for-profit venture to raise genetically engineered (GE) salmon has received $1.95 million in federal research grants at taxpayer expense.
The revelation followed on the heels of an article in Grist that exposed how AquaBounty Technology recently received $494,000 to study technologies that would render the genetically engineered salmon sterile. "This would reduce the likelihood they could reproduce with wild salmon, should any escape into the wild -- a scenario that has many environmentalists concerned," according to the piece by Clare Leschin-Hoar on September 29.
"After digging up federal records, we discovered that in addition to the USDA grant, AquaBounty Technologies has received almost $2 million dollars in federal research grants since 2003," said Lauren Wright, Communications Manager of Food and Water Watch."
Specifically, the Department of Commerce awarded AquaBounty $1.68 million between 2003 and 2005, while the United States Department of Agriculture gave more than $550 thousand between 2003 and 2011, and the National Science Foundation awarded AquaBounty close to $200 thousand in 2009, according to Wright.
"Almost all of this money has gone into researching sterilization techniques that can be applied to genetically engineered fish," Wright stated. "Because of the risk that escaped GE fish pose to wild populations, sterilizing GE fish has become an important consideration as AquaBounty pursues regulatory approval from the FDA for GE salmon. The FDA has stated that AquaBounty's proposed production plan may allow up to five percent of GE salmon to remain fertile."
In light of the new findings, Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch, slammed the federal government for spending taxpayer dollars on funding the creation of GE salmon - Frankenfish.
"The U.S. government is giving taxpayer money to fund a project in Canada while our economy is faltering," said Hauter. "Why is our government bailing out AquaBounty at a time when we're radically cutting our federal budget? This is research the company should do to prove their product is safe -- the American people shouldn't be paying for it."
The Obama administration is trying to fast-track the approval of genetically engineered salmon, but is encountering fierce resistance from a coalition of recreational and commercial fishermen, environmentalists, Indian Tribes and consumer advocates who are opposing the approval of the Frankenfish because of its potential harm to human health, wild salmon populations and ecosystems.
On the West Coast, the impact of any genetically engineered salmon escaping into the wild could have dramatic consequences. The Sacramento River fall run chinook salmon, the driver of West Coast salmon fisheries, collapsed to record low population levels in 2008 and 2009, due to a combination of record water exports out of the California Delta, declining water quality and poor ocean conditions. The fall run numbers have improved this year, but protected runs of Central Valley spring run and winter run chinook salmon continue to decline.
In June 2011, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to prohibit the FDA from using funds to approve the controversial salmon. Legislators in both Alaska and California are attempting to pass bills that would require the label the fish as a GMO product or to prohibit it from being approved for human consumption.
If approved, GE salmon would be the first "transgenic" animal allowed into our food supply.
For more information and action alerts, go to: http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/food/genetically-engineered-foods/stop-frankenfish/