Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Labeling and GE salmon

A frequent topic in our class discussions deals with consumer knowledge of the food industry. This NYTimes article in particular deals with the facet of labeling regarding genetically engineer foods. Genetically engineered salmon is on the cusp of entering our food markets but right now it’s caught in a triangle between multiple major consumer groups, the FDA, and the representatives of the food and biotechnology industry responsible for the salmon. If it were to enter supermarkets, it would be the first genetically engineered animal to be offered to the American food supply, and whether the American public should know is the struggle at hand. Labeling could make it or break it, and the main argument for those producing the salmon is that “a ‘genetically engineered’ label would be akin to a skull and crossbones, killing sales.” 

I think this particular case should be treated as a landmark; we’ve come so far in biotechnology’s entanglement in our food and are also so cornered by the power of big food corporations that we have gotten here and can do almost nothing about it. Conclusive testing and effects of consuming take much more time than the big company is will to put in - their product is hot and by comparison to regular raised fish will reap in a huge profit. Labeling might be the last defense, but in the grand scheme of the supermarket, so much information has been tucked away and mislabeled that it almost seems as though one more addition would hardly make the difference. This brings me to my last point: the majority of the American consumers might not care that this huge and inexpensive cut of salmon is only partly-animal, mostly science experiment. I didn’t know about genetically engineered salmon but personally, I’m horrified that they might be selling this in my local supermarket without letting me know that these animals weren’t engaged in their normal, evolutionary life paths from the very beginning.

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