Trader Joe's, Aldi, Whole Foods and Marsh Supermarkets – accounting for more than 2,000 stores nationwide – are among a group of grocery chains and health food stores that have committed to selling only non-GE salmon and seafood.
The announcement is the first from a new coalition of consumer, health, food and fishing groups collectively forming a "Campaign for Genetically Engineered-Free Seafood," and comes just weeks before the Food and Drug Administration is expected to issue approval of a first-of-its-kind GE salmon variety.
Organizations Friends of the Earth, Consumers Union, Center for Food Safety and Food & Water Watch are among 30 groups behind the latest push.
FDA preps for decision
While stores sort out what they will stock, the FDA is wrapping up the process of evaluating AquaBounty Technology's AquaAdvantage Salmon for safety, and will likely return a decision this spring. The new-variety salmon include a gene from the Chinook salmon, which provides the fish with the potential to grow to market size in half the time of conventional salmon.
A preliminary FDA study released in May 2012 found the fish have no significant food safety hazards or risks, and is "as safe as food from conventional Atlantic salmon." Further, a draft environmental assessment found the fish would have no effect on continued existence of U.S. Atlantic salmon populations or result in the destruction or adverse modification of their habitat.
The comment period for the draft Environmental Assessment and preliminary Finding of No Significant Impact pertaining to AquAdvantage Salmon approval is open until April 26, 2013.
Even if approved, don't hold your breath for labels
The activist groups say the FDA is not likely to label genetically engineered salmon, a major sticking point for their campaign.
"Most consumers don't want to eat genetically engineered salmon, but without mandatory labeling it will be hard for them to avoid. That's why the stores who have committed to not to sell genetically engineered seafood are making a smart move and giving their customers what they want--a way to avoid this controversial, unnecessary biotech fish," said Patty Lovera, assistant director of Food & Water Watch.
The groups say labeling is critically important as other species of genetically engineered fish are currently under development, and the FDA's decision on this GE salmon application will set a precedent for other GE fish and animals.
Groups say the labeling would avoid confusion in the marketplace and ensure sustainable seafood.
The group is also asking seafood restaurants, chefs, and seafood companies to join the Pledge for GE-Free Seafood and publicly commit to not knowingly purchase or sell genetically engineered salmon or other genetically engineered seafood.