Despite a lack of testing and widespread opposition, genetically engineered (GE) salmon took the final step towards becoming the first FDA-approved GE food animal. The Food and Drug Administration released its draft Environmental Assessment which concluded that the fish “will not have any significant impacts on the quality of the human environment of the United States”, clearing the way for salmon that have been developed to grow at twice the usual salmon speed. Over 40 members of Congress and scientists at other federal agencies, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, have also voiced strong opposition to GE salmon, citing the lack of scientific rigor and expertise at the FDA. AquaBounty, the biotech company that developed the frankenfish, says there’s little to no risk of fish escaping their growth pens and mating with wild salmon. Yet a team of Canadian scientists who observed the breeding behavior of AquaBounty’s genetically modified salmon and wild salmon for two years, found that they can inded mate. “It’s possible for genetic modification to enter wild populations through natural sexual reproduction,” Darek Moreau, a researcher in evolutionary ecology at Memorial University in Canada, told the Montreal Gazette. Although the researchers could not say what the evolutionary and ecological ramifications of their results could be, there are sure to be effects to the ecosystem with the introduction of these GE fish.
Despite Propostion 37 failing in California, the fight for GMO labeling continues across the country. This week State Senator Peter Wirth (D-Santa Fe-25) pre-filed a proposed amendment to the New Mexico Food Act to require the labeling of genetically engineered food and feed. The amendment (SB 18) was drafted with support from the consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch and is strongly supported by many national and local organizations and individuals including food cooperatives, organic farmers, environmentalists and food justice proponents. Several public opinion polls show that the vast majority of American consumers want food derived from genetically engineered crops to be labeled. GE foods have not been tested for long-term impacts on human and environmental health and safety and over 40 countries have mandatory GE food labels including Japan, China and Russia. SB 18 will be taken up by the legislature when the session begins on January 15th.
What could be a more beautiful addition to one’s property than an abundant, flourishing garden of veggies and flowers? Unfortunately, not everyone appreciates the beauty of a home garden when its located on the front yard. In the last couple of years, local officials in several cities across the US have issued code violation citations and a date to report before a code enforcement board to home owners with front yard gardens. In Ferguson, Mo., a stay-at-home father was ordered to dig up his 55 varieties of edible plants. In Tulsa, Okla., a gardener who didn’t want to remove her veggies and medicinal herbs had them largely cleared by the city. In Oak Park, Mich., a mother of six faced up to 93 days in jail for refusing to take out the raised beds in front of her home. These and other cases have drawn national attention, as well as outrage from gardeners, some of whom have begun referring to the isolated skirmishes as a broader “war on gardens.” Roger Doiron, the founder and director of Kitchen Gardeners International, and previously a guest on my show, states that “if you define a war as a struggle between opposing forces, this does fit the bill.” The opposing forces, in Mr. Doiron’s view, are progressive-minded gardeners and backward-thinking municipalities. Gardeners, he said, “need to push back. This isn’t about a single garden; this is about the right to garden.”