Consumers Union Blasts FDA over Pending Approval of GMO Salmon; What’s in a Name? With Sales in the Pits, Corn Refiners Petition FDA to Let Then Call High Fructose Corn Syrup “Corn Sugar”

Don't ask; don't tell.

Don't ask; don't tell.

Consumers Union to FDA: Say NO to GMO Salmon

During the a series of hearings early this week, a committee advising the Food and Drug Administration will decide whether to give its blessing to Atlantic salmon genetically modified to grow twice as fast as non-GMO salmon. The fish, engineered by a Massachusetts company called AquaBounty technologies, contain genes from Chinook salmon and a bottom-dwelling ocean pout.

Committee members had better brace themselves for blast from Michael Hansen, Ph.D., Senior Scientist at the Consumers Union. “FDA requires new animal drugs to be shown to be safe for animals, humans, and the environment. This has not been shown for the GE salmon. The data presented, although woefully incomplete, do raise a potential serious human health issue—that of increased allergenicity,” he wrote in a prepared statement, going on to lambaste the approval process. “The FDA has set the bar very low,” he said, and cited flaws such as “sloppy science,” “small sample sizes (only six fish),” “questionable practices,” and “woefully inadequate analysis.”

Unfortunately, the Consumer Union’s admonitions are likely to fall on deaf ears. It is clear that the committee reviewing the application is made up of people who are either blatantly pro-GMO, or simply lack the expertise to make informed decisions. The committee has no scientists whose expertise is in the areas of fish ecology, food allergies, and endocrinology (all relevant topics), but there are two members who have developed genetically engineered animals, including one Monsanto alum, and several veterinarians.

And that’s not the worst of it. According to the Washington Post, if (or, more likely, when) the FDA gives the GMO salmon its blessing, it will not require that the fish be labeled as such when sold to consumers because the altered fish is not “materially” different from other salmon.

If that happens, giving up farmed salmon altogether will be the only sure way for consumers to avoid dining on GMO fillets. Which, when you think about it, wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

Questionable tactics.  Photograph: Corn Refiners Association

Questionable tactics. Photograph: Corn Refiners Association


The Name Game

For the last couple of years, the Corn Refiners Association has waged a $30-million advertising and PR campaign to convince the public that high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is no different from the sugars in cane, beets, honey, and other natural sweeteners—even though it is the product of a complex process that can include reactions involving hydrochloric acid and other compounds. The campaign backfired. Prominent companies like Starbucks and Gatorade made PR hay by proudly proclaiming that they would no longer sweeten their products with HFCS. Sales of the product fell by 20 percent.

Now it appears the corn lobbyists think that their dollars might be better spent trying to convince the Food and Drug Administration to allow them to change their product’s name to the more natural-sounding “corn sugar.” Approval could take two years, but the refiners association is wasting no time in assuming the new identity, replacing “high fructose corn syrup” with “corn sugar” in its press materials and advertising.

As Tom Laskawy pointed out on the environmental website Grist, the industry seems to be adopting the motto, “If you can’t beat ‘em . . . confuse them.”

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1 comment

  1. cresposito says:

    I am absolutely not a defender of the “corn sugar” industry. Over the last year or two I have almost entirely eliminated HFCS from my diet, and even before that I consumed it very sparingly, on the notion that HFCS is “more processed” and therefore inferior to cane sugar.

    But then here is the Wikipedia article on cane sugar refining(, which involves alkalanizing the product with lime, bubbling sulphur dioxide through the evaporation tanks as a bleaching agent, and clarifying the sugar solution with phosphoric acid.

    So the question is obvious: Why should I be more frightened of HFCS than of sugar? Why do we consider HFCS to be a processed creation, but cane sugar to be a proper food? It would seem that either HFCS should be rebranded to “corn sugar” or that sugar should be rebranded to “HSCS” (High Sucrose Cane Sugar), but that to have different naming styles for each is a bit silly.

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