The United States Food and Drug Administration employs over 10,000 people in approximately 3.8 million square feet of office space.
The organization is charged with protecting the sanctity and safety of our food supply, both long and short-term.
But according to one organization that specializes in a similar profession, the federal organization has not been doing its job as of late in regards to its approval of the first-ever genetically engineered animal, one that critics say has not been tested for long-term safety and could cause wholly unintended consequences should it ever find its way into the wild.
The organization is now suing the United States FDA for its failure to release key documents related to the situation, in hopes of improving transparency, in hopes of protecting the health of both people and the environment.
Center for Food Safety Announces Lawsuit Against the FDA
A non-profit based in Washington, D.C. with an office in San Francisco, California, the Center for Food Safety is known for its advocacy work for a healthier food supply.
One of their main areas of focus is holding governments accountable for their constant refusal to release information on novel genetically engineered food experiments like the GMO salmon, which was developed by AquaBounty, a Canadian company that has quietly been busy building a new $300 million GMO salmon factory in Ohio.
The Center announced it has filed a lawsuit against the FDA under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for “unlawfully withholding records regarding FDA’s environmental assessment of genetically engineered (GE) salmon and a planned Ohio-based production facility.”
The lawsuit comes on the heels of the Center and its allies’ successful lawsuit holding the FDA’s initial approval of the GMO salmon as unlawful.
Despite this, production of the massive new GMO salmon facility has continued.
The FDA has refused to share important documents, according to a press release.
“Despite the 2020 court decision holding FDA’s first-ever approval of a genetically engineered food animal unlawful, FDA claims it needs nearly two years to produce records,” said Amy van Saun, senior attorney at Center for Food Safety.
“But our request is narrow and straightforward: it’s time for FDA to tell the public about the possible environmental and ecological effects of genetically engineered salmon, including any effects to endangered wild salmon species.”
How the GMO Salmon is Made and Why Advocates are Concerned
The AquaBounty AquAdvantage GMO salmon is produced with the DNA of three different fish: the Atlantic salmon, Pacific king salmon, and Arctic Ocean eelpout.
The Center and its allies’ original lawsuit in 2016 took issue with the agency’s approval of the GE fish citing “inadequate environmental assessments and broad risks to ecosystems.”
Their 2020 court victory sent the approval back to the FDA to undertake more thorough environmental analyses to inform the public about the potential risks.
But after the ruling, AquaBounty announced its plans to expand its production of GMO salmon by 10,000 metric tons, starting with the building of its massive new facility in Ohio.
The Center says the FDA is downplaying the risk of this new facility and the effects it may have on people and the environment.
Already, the first GMO fish has been sold, unlabeled, at a fish market on the East Coast, and more of the experimental fish are expected to make their way onto dinner plates without the consumer knowing due to a lack of labeling.
“We are concerned that FDA is not paying careful attention to AquaBounty’s planned expansion in Ohio,” said Jaydee Hanson, policy director at Center for Food Safety.
“After years of touting that it will grow its fish in tanks that recycle the water, the company now plans to pump water from the aquifer that supplies community drinking water and dump wastewater back into a nearby stream. Without the requested documents, we have no way to know if FDA has fully considered the effects this facility will have on the local environment.”