When you follow the organic industry closely and care deeply about health, it is very easy to get frustrated with how our leaders place such little importance on organic.
While we do have a small number of organic advocates in Washington D.C., the overall policy that emanates from our government is one that supports genetically-modified food, largely because the GM-industry uses its vast resources to influence politicians and regulatory bodies.
And if you think the GM-industry hasn’t gotten to Obama, think again.
Not only did he renege on his promise to label genetically-modified food while on the campaign trail in 2007 but he supported the deregulation of genetically-engineered alfalfa, a policy that has disastrous implications for the organic dairy and meat industries.
Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of The Center for Food Safety, told me earlier this year that Obama is “worse than Bush”.
Well, the FDA and USDA have gotten so out of control that Congress held a subcommittee hearing this morning to address the genetically-engineered salmon issue.
If you are unfamiliar with genetically-engineered salmon, a biotech company in Massachusetts called AquaBounty wants to insert a gene into salmon so that it grows to full size in approximately half the time.
Not only are the long-term health risks to humans completely unknown but the environmental risks are beyond alarming. Once these salmon escape and get into the wild, the ocean’s eco-system will be damaged forever. Forever.
Despite outrage from a litany of environmental, consumer, health, and animal welfare organizations, and dozens of members of Congress, the Obama administration continues to support this ghastly technology. How?
Well, just when AquaBounty was having serious financial issues a few months ago, the USDA came to its rescue and awarded the company a $500,000 grant to research technologies that would render their fish sterile.
Sensing the need to take a more active role in this situation, The Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard Subcommittee of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee met this morning to discuss the environmental risks of GE-fish.
Colin O’Neil, a policy analyst at The Center for Food Safety who was at the hearing, told me that Subcommittee Chairman Senator Mark Begich (D-AK) has been “a loyal advocate for wild fisheries and is very concerned about genetic engineering. The risks of this technology are real and no longer can the FDA assume that it won’t have an impact.”
Apparently, Senator Begich and Senator Olympia Snowe (R-WA) were the only two members of the subcomittee present, and they also asked several questions of AquaBounty’s CEO.
The subcommittee discussed the inadequacy of FDA regulations regarding GE-fish and talked about the FDA’s lack of transparency and lack of reliance on experts when handling this matter.
While nothing concrete came from this hearing, in terms of a solution to GE-salmon, it was a very positive development. Why?
This was the first time ever that Congress has held a formal public hearing about the genetic engineering of animals. It will also set the stage for more discussion about this subject and what a robust regulatory framework looks like.
Organic advocates should be very happy that members of Congress got serious about starting to regulate this incredibly important technology instead of letting the ill-equipped and non-transparent USDA and FDA do it themselves.
I applaud this subcomittee for arranging the hearing, starting the conversation and raising awareness about the seriousness and risks of genetic engineering of animals.
The stakes of this technology are too great to ignore, and it seems that some members of Congress recognize this.
I will be sure to keep you posted as I learn more.