Philadelphia residents are test subjects for first U.S. sale of genetically engineered salmon
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 17, 2021
CONTACT: firstname.lastname@example.org, Estefania Narvaez – (210) 837-3205
Unconsenting Philadelphians will soon unknowingly be eating the first genetically engineered animal to be released in U.S. markets. AquaBounty Technologies (NASDAQ: AQB) is planning its first commercial scale harvest of genetically engineered (GE/GMO) salmon this month, and is partnering with Samuels & Son, a regional seafood distributor headquartered in Philadelphia, to bring this controversial product to eaters’ plates. GE salmon likely won’t carry clear on-package labels stating they are genetically engineered, nor are they required to be labeled as genetically engineered on restaurant menus, making it difficult for consumers to avoid purchasing them.
In November 2020, the US District Court for the Northern District of California declared the approval of genetically engineered salmon unlawful based on several environmental law violations. However, it does not prevent GE salmon from being sold in the U.S. while environmental reviews are underway. Chefs, community organizations, consumers, and Indigenous community members from across the country are strongly opposing this controversial release. Additionally, Aramark (ARMK), the 14.6 billion dollar foodservice management company headquartered in Philadelphia, recently updated its company policy in January 2021 rejecting GE salmon citing potential negative impacts to wild salmon populations and Indigenous communities.
AquaBounty has been trying to garner good publicity and brand recognition in Philadelphia. Last month, the company donated 50,000 lbs of their conventional, industrial-farmed salmon to a local food charity due to a growing backlog of fish they have not sold. “They’re just putting salmon on a plate for profit at the end of the day,” says Steve Kurian, fisherman with Wild For Salmon based in Bloomsburg, PA. “They say there’s no chance of the fish escaping into wild populations, but if farmed fish is any indicator, it’s a matter of when, not if. Samuels & Son are promoting to fundamentally change the DNA of the wild salmon which would change the whole environment. And then they’re using unknowing salmon consumers of the east coast to make a profit off of this damage.”
The Muckleshoot Tribe and Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians (ATNI), a nonprofit organization representing 57 Northwest tribal governments from Oregon, Idaho, Washington, northern California, western Montana, and southeast Alaska, released a resolution resoundingly opposing GE salmon citing the risk it poses on wild salmon, their treaty rights, and way of life. The release of GE salmon is not only an attack on Indigenous communities who have been stewarding salmon since time immemorial but to wild salmon and the ecosystem they live in.
“Wild salmon, made as the Creator intended, are an essential part of the culture, way of life, diet, and spiritual identity of our people, and that’s why our ancestors explicitly protected our right to fish in our treaties with the United States government,” said President Fawn Sharp of the Quinault Indian Nation and the National Congress of American Indians. “Genetically modified salmon directly and unacceptably threaten the sustainability, health, and purity of this irreplaceable resource. Despite the federal judiciary ruling that genetically engineered salmon have not been legally approved for sale, an amoral and greedy corporation is flouting the law and insulting countless Tribal Nations by pushing this monstrous, unnatural, and unhealthy product to consumers, and we will not stand for it.”
Due to the various health and environmental concerns surrounding GE salmon, the lack of consumer demand, and opposition from Indigenous salmon protectors, there is an active movement calling to boycott GE salmon upon its arrival on the market. The #BlockCorporateSalmon Campaign pushed Aramark to make a stronger commitment to not sell GE salmon and are continuing to garner public support for this boycott. More than 80 food retailers, including the largest in the U.S., have made commitments to not sell genetically engineered salmon, including major food service management companies, Sodexo (SDXAY) and Compass Group (CMPGF), and U.S. grocery retailer, Whole Foods (WFM). Several stakeholders engaging the seafood industry (e.g., Global Salmon Initiative, Aquaculture Stewardship Council, FishWise) have also opposed GE salmon.
Jon Russell (Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance) – email@example.com, (412)260-2950
Dana Perls (Friends of the Earth) – firstname.lastname@example.org
Michael Hansen (Consumer Reports) – email@example.com
Carl Wassilie (Yup’ik Biologist) – firstname.lastname@example.org
About #BlockCorporateSalmon Campaign
The #BlockCorporateSalmon campaign aims to block genetically engineered salmon and corporate expansion in the ocean and watersheds. In late 2019 Uprooted & Rising (UNR) members from the Pacific Northwest, supported by the ongoing work to oppose GE salmon by the Community Alliance for Global Justice (CAGJ), joined the struggle of Indigenous leaders locally and fisher folk advocates nationally to form the #BlockCorporateSalmon Campaign. The purpose of the #BlockCorporateSalmon campaign is to uplift Indigenous led solutions to protect and restore wild salmon and reject false and harmful solutions such as genetically engineered salmon and industrial scale aquaculture projects. We call for a global boycott of genetically engineered salmon and push back against any policy that threatens Indigenous food sovereignty. The goals of the campaign are to: 1) educate the public on community control of our food system centering Indigenous knowledge as the way forward, 2) block industrial-scale fish farming, 3) block AquaBounty’s genetically engineered salmon, and 4) hold accountable institutions, such as SeaGrant universities, that facilitate the corporate agenda behind industrial-scale aquaculture.