Filed Under: Food Scares Seafood

The Luddite Caucus

Last fall, a Food and Drug Administration committee issued a preliminary report finding that genetically modified salmon—which has been under review for over a decade—appears to be okay for consumer consumption. Naturally, anti-biotechnology groups freaked out and predicted doom if this fish was brought to market. And now a group of eight U.S. Senators is threatening to pull FDA funding for the research if the agency doesn’t stop testing the salmon.

OK, we get it—the senators, from fishery-heavy places such as Alaska and Washington, want to stick up for a major industry in their states. But the fact that they’re going after simply testing new technology makes it protectionism at its silliest (and most unscientific).

After all, why doesn’t this enterprising and concerned group of lawmakers start attacking ATMs? (Those put bank tellers out of a job.) Or what about robotics? (That hurts assembly line workers.)  And imagine 100 years ago, when Model Ts threatened the horse-and-buggy industry. Thankfully, the Los Angeles Times is on the case, opining: “The answer lies in more science, not less.”

And what about that science? The genetically improved salmon that’s under FDA review simply is modified with genes from other fish to grow faster—meaning it’s more efficient. The reply from “green” activists (and now, the esteemed lawmakers) has been to trumpet fear through weasel words. The new salmon might harm the environment (by, say, somehow escaping from Panamanian highlands) and it might be harmful to health.

The FDA’s science-based preliminary review, however, tells a different and more credible story:

[T]here is a reasonably certainty of no harm from the consumption of food from this animal […]

As a result of all of these containment measures, the potential occurrence of any significant effects on the global commons or any foreign nations not participating in this action is considered extremely remote. In addition, no effects on stocks of wild Atlantic salmon are expected.

Times change. As the world population grows to over 9 billion people by 2050, we’re going to need more innovation to be able to feed all the hungry mouths. The “precautionary principle” and trumped-up doom-mongering are only going to retard progress, and they’re wielded by those who can’t accept an inconvenient truth.

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