Some Fishy News

December 6, 2015

Here is a post for those Thornapple Blog readers who rely on me to keep them informed of all the doings in the murky world of food regulatory policy. Of course I have to caution any other innocent soul who happens to have stumbled onto the Blog that the readers who rely on me to keep them informed of all the doings in the murky world of food regulatory policy have very low expectations. They don’t really have a great desire to be informed about such matters at all, else they would have long since found a more reliable source. There are hundreds of bloggers frequenting the Internet who (as we have colorfully noted on a previous occasion) write a blog post every time they go to the bathroom, and there are probably be a dozen who write every time someone in a regulatory agency goes to the bathroom, and (although I can’t direct you to this particular website) that suggests there has to be one or two who specialize in the bathroom visits of regulators at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

There is probably somebody with a secret webcam installed in the office bathroom of Larisa Rudenko, who is the FDA official who was charged with responding to questions about the FDA’s announcement that finally, after what seems like centuries but is in fact only decades of delay, they have approved the genetically engineered fast-growing Aqua Bounty™ salmon. I count Larisa as a friend, even if I only see her in a professional context and even then not for a year or so now. She didn’t see fit to call me up and give me advance notice about this, but I’m not complaining. I’m not the one who has a listening device squirreled away in the women’s bathroom at FDA headquarters hoping to scoop the blogosphere on the approval of GM salmon, after all.

And to prove this, I’ll point out that it has, in actual fact, been nearly a month since FDA made this announcement. Now don’t complain. I warned you two paragraphs ago that the Thornapple Blog is not the place you should be going if you want up-to-the-minute updates on the murky world of food regulatory policy. Has the Internet been aflame in the wake of this announcement? Not really. I did a Google search on “GM fish” and the top ranks were all several years old. I also took a look at the Center for Food Safety’s webpage. They are—as one would expect given that they have been one of the most severe critics of genetic engineering in the food system—up to date on this issue. When I checked they had a flash banner pointing out that Costco has announced they would not sell Aqua Bounty™ salmon. Now this may or may not be true. I’m just reporting this in the same spirit that Hunter S. Thompson once reported a rumor that Ed Muskie was using ibogaine. Thompson later clarified, saying that he had never said Muskie was a druggie, only that there was a rumor that he was…which was true, he wrote, “because I started it.”

But I digress. We’ve gone over the ins and outs of these fish on a couple of occasions, and so I don’t actually feel any compulsion to say anything intelligent about the ethics or wisdom of FDA’s decision. I will repeat that this decision has been expected by many of us for a long time. It was hard to imagine given the evidence before them and their regulatory mandate, that they could do much of anything else. But of course having blogged about these piscis before, I felt this obligation to keep my loyal but only mildly curious readers informed—even if it was somewhat late.

Paul B. Thompson is the W.K. Kellogg Professor of Agricultural, Food and Community Ethics at Michigan State University

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