"Frankenfish" – Poster Child of Genetically Modified Food Fears

Too little is known to allow unleashing of test-tube species

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Last week the federal Food and Drug Administration held hearings to consider approval of a genetically engineered salmon containing unnaturally high levels of growth hormones. This creature has become widely known as the Frankenfish.

Creators of the Frankenfish, which grows much faster than natural fish, hope they’ll get rich selling them for human consumption. But, what happens to those fish that escape the fork? Research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that 60 of these fish released into a population of 60,000 wild salmon could "lead to the extinction of the wild population in less than 40 fish generations."

On the heels of the Frankenfish hearing comes a court ruling regarding the legality of planting and growing genetically modified sugar beets.

A federal judge ruled in August that the U.S. government cannot authorize use of genetically engineered sugar beets until it first does a proper environmental review. That review needs to look at the damage and threats unleashing these artificial plants will have on nature and on the crops of farmers who grow organic, natural food crops.

But, rather than obey the judge, the federal Department of Agriculture turned around and told genetic sugar beet farmers they were free to plant their crops. So Earthjustice and the Center for Food Safety, representing a number of groups, went back to the judge seeking a stronger court order.

The judge told the conservation and food safety groups he agrees with them and has set another court date to consider the groups’ request to force the growers to destroy the artificial sugar beets that have been planted in violation of the earlier court order.

John was Earthjustice’s Media Director and chief press wrangler from 2001 until 2013. He came to Earthjustice in 2001 to defend freshwaters and public land—and salmon.

Earthjustice’s Washington, D.C., office works at the federal level to prevent air and water pollution, combat climate change, and protect natural areas. We also work with communities in the Mid-Atlantic region and elsewhere to address severe local environmental health problems, including exposures to dangerous air contaminants in toxic hot spots, sewage backups and overflows, chemical disasters, and contamination of drinking water. The D.C. office has been in operation since 1978.