By Richard Green
The FDA recently removed the last obstacle to producing AquaBounty’s faster growing Atlantic salmon in the United States. Dr. Anastasia Bodnar of Biology Fortified covers benefits and allays concerns in “Fast-growing genetically engineered salmon approved”.
Does this mean that we can look forward to seeing this salmon in our local supermarkets? Sadly no, at least not all of them.
Misinformation spreads to the supermarket
Anti-GMO misinformation was turned up to 11 a few years ago, with initiatives and referendums in many US states to restrict farming or sale of GMOs. People even participated in anti-GMO marches. If you don’t recall, no worries. Unprompted GMO issues are not on most folks’ radar.
I mention these actions because it was well after that point when some supermarket chains made the bold decision to jump on the bandwagon of a waning movement with somewhat tepid statements. Trader Joe’s, Costco, Whole Foods, Kroger, Target, and several other U.S. food retailers indicated that they had no plans to carry GE Salmon. Walmart was even later to the party, according to an e-mail from an activist group.
Now, with the salmon actually able to go into production, it might be a good time to write, e-mail, or message these companies and ask them to include it in their plans. It also couldn’t hurt to notify your local grocer that you’d like them to carry this fish as well. To spark ideas, I’ll share the template I’m using in drafting my own letters. Feel free to use all, parts, or none of it, if you decide to write to some of these grocers.
Suggested letter to supermarkets
Dear ____, Current CEO, VP of Marketing, or both. (May as well aim high 😉)
The FDA has just paved the way for Aquabounty to produce and sell their fast growing Atlantic Salmon in the US. I’m writing to let you know that I would like you to carry this salmon at your stores as soon as supplies become available. The salmon is grown in recirculating inland tanks which is the most ecologically friendly and sustainable way to farm fish. The tanks have the added bonus of keeping the fish totally contained within the facility. This not only relieves pressure on wild Atlantic Salmon but is a boon to the environment. I’ve heard reports that the fish is quite tasty, and I’d love to try it myself. As a good corporate citizen, it makes sense for you to carry this fish for your customers that are concerned about the environment.
It can also help your bottom-line. You may have lingering concerns about the fish being genetically engineered because of the vast amount of misinformation that was constantly being spread years ago. When unprompted, most people are not concerned about GMOs, and it has been years since anybody marched about biotech, unless you count positive representations in the March for Science. Anti-GMO sentiment has waned, becoming a fringe issue, though they may seem to be loud from time to time. The pendulum is swinging in the other direction.
Stonyfield was soundly trounced for spreading false information on GMOs, as have other companies. This is your chance to be on top of a trend that has facts, not fear, on its side. Carrying environmentally-friendly products like AquaBounty’s salmon and items that reduce food waste like non-browning Arctic Apples and Innate Potatoes will show your commitment to sustainability. These foods are just the beginning of genetically engineered or gene edited products that are good for the environment and the consumer.
Thank you for listening,
Contact your supermarket
*Whole Foods is most likely a lost cause, but if you have the letter ready to go, it can’t hurt to tilt at a few windmills
Editor’s note: Read more on this story, including how supermarkets responded to letters about GMO salmon on Medium, In Support of GE Salmon: Production can begin, but will consumers get to try it?
Written by Guest Expert
Richard Green is a microbiologist who spent his career in biopharmaceuticals. He wore many hats moving between various departments such as Process Development, Clinical and Commercial manufacturing. These days he pursues his love for science via his Eclectic Science Facebook page and the occasional blog on Medium.