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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Fishier than the salmon

In the Houston Press blog, recently appointed food critic Kaitlin Steinberg posts an article called "Attack of the Frankenfish", which is, of course, about the potential (and long delayed) approval of the Aquabounty transgenic salmon to the US markets. The writing uses the leading epithet "frankenfish" twice, painting immediately in the reader's mind that these are some kind of science fiction monster, despite the conciliatory wording admitting that the fish are only different in their growth rate - they grow twice as fast as their unmodified kin.

After that, Ms. Steinberg starts citing the Center for Food Safety. Despite the seemingly authoritative name, the CFS is a political action group dedicated to the elimination of genetically engineered foods, regardless of facts. They have resorted to outright fabrication and falsehood in marketing.

The Center for Food Safety, under its façade of nonprofit watchdogging, has all the marks of a black-marketing campaign, run on behalf of organic and “natural” foods. Its advisory board is packed with organic-foods activists.
Sadly, Ms. Steinberg was suckered in by this shady group. Although she writes that there are "Many organizations like the Center for Food Safety " which have petitions against the Aquabounty salmon, she fails to cite or link definitively to any one of them. But if they are like the CFS, they shouldn't be trusted anyway.

The environmental impact should be no different than for any aquacultured fish (I'd be more concerned with tilapia). As for the issue that the salmon could contain higher amounts of antibiotics - I refer you to my earlier postings about antibiotics in agriculture - a complex issue that merits much more thought than a simple condemnation. Mentioning it in ominous handwaving is manipulating the emotional susceptibility of the reader - this is not backed by any actual science. Then again, that's what the CFS really does - it subverts the air of scientific authority to spread unfounded fear.

At the end of her posting, Ms. Steinberg falls into the usual rhythm of anti GMO fearmongering, cautioning people to look for "wild" salmon, to avoid this product - even though it hasn't even entered the market yet. Poor Kroger is the unfortunate collateral damage of this inadvertent smear campaign, unfortunately named simply for not committing to a business move that they cannot control.

I suggest that Ms. Steinberg rethink her role in being the tool of a manipulative unscrupulous media entity.

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