Getting Grocers to Say No To Frankenfish

Getting Grocers to Say No To Frankenfish

March 20, 2023

By Alexandra Zissu, Editorial Director

It’s almost dinnertime and everyone is cranky, needy. The work emails have your phone constantly buzzing. You’re racing to get family meal on the table. Are you thinking, I’d really love to serve the kids some genetically engineered salmon?


Didn’t think so.

Unfortunately, you may not have a choice. After a decade in the works, GE salmon appears poised to be approved by the FDA. If it does, it won’t likely be labeled. That’s why the advocacy group Friends of the Earth (FOE) is asking stores to take their pledge for GE-free seafood, adopting a policy to “not knowingly purchase or sell genetically engineered salmon or other GE seafood, should it come to market.”

Need a primer on this frankenfish? Here’s the skinny: It’s Atlantic salmon with 2 genes inserted into it from other fish, explains Eric Hoffman, food and technology policy campaigner at Friends of the Earth. “A growth hormone gene from a Chinook salmon and an antifreeze gene from an ocean pout, which is like an eel.” The antifreeze gene helps these fish grow year round, not just in warmer weather—two times as fast as other farmed salmon.

Besides sounding creepy enough that most kids—picky eaters or not—would probably refuse to eat it and its added growth hormones, genetically modified salmon’s health affects are largely unknown. More—and better—studies are needed. “There’s bad science to prove that it’s safe,” says Hoffman.

Beyond health concerns, there are environmental ones, including that farmed fish can escape into the wild, impacting fish populations. “Atlantic salmon is already endangered in the U.S.,” says Hoffman.

If approved, regulation of genetically engineered seafood will be tricky. The fish eggs are to be raised in Canada, shipped to Panama to grow, then shipped back to the U.S. as food—and once this scenario is set up, Hoffman says it can be replicated in other countries. It also sets up precedence for other genetically modified foods and animals.

It’s critical that consumers who want to avoid genetically modified seafood have the capacity to do so. In the absence of labeling, supermarkets, seafood companies and restaurants that sign FOE’s pledge supporting a shopper’s right to know what they’re purchasing (as well as sustainable seafood production) are a conscious consumer’s best bet.

Now if only those same supermarkets would pledge not to sell seafood that has been fed genetically engineered feed!

Interested in signing a petition to thank stores and chefs committed to not selling genetically modified fish and asking others to sign? Click here. The list of 2,000 stores in the U.S. is growing and currently includes: Aldi, Abundance Co-op Market, Berkshire Co-op Market, Bi-Rite Market, Davis Food Co-op, Marsh Supermarket, Merc Co-op, PCC Natural Markets, Sacramento Natural Foods Cooperative, Three Rivers Market, Trader Joe’s , Whole Foods, and Whole Foods Co-op.