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Archive for 'Seafood'

Last week, the California Assembly Health Committee passed a bill requiring the labeling of all genetically engineered salmon entering and sold within the state. Interestingly, genetically modified fish is not on sale anywhere in the United States. This move was a preemptive strike against the possible FDA approval of genetically engineered (GE) salmon.

In September 2010, the FDA found that there was not enough data to determine if AquaBounty’s GE salmon was safe for consumers or the fish themselves.  AquAdvantage , the fish under consideration, is Atlantic salmon that has been given a gene from the ocean pout, an eel-like fish, which allows the salmon to grow twice as fast as a traditional Atlantic salmon. It also contains a growth hormone from a Chinook salmon and reportedly requires 25% less food.

There are a whole host of concerns surrounding GE salmon which are outlined in CA Assembly Bill No. 88. One major concern is that the FDA’s current review of GE salmon does not adequately consider the potential environmental effects and health effects associated with genetically engineered salmon, including, but not limited to, risks to native salmon populations and other freshwater and marine species. The bill expresses that “accurate and truthful labeling to describe whether or not salmon is genetically engineered is the easiest and most protective practice to provide additional transparency in the state’s seafood supply chain so that individuals may protect their health and California’s environment.”

Also included as concerns in the bill:

  • Human health risks, including, but not limited to, potential allergenicity.
  • Religious-, ethical-, and cultural-based dietary concerns.
  • Potential job loss to wild salmon fisherman should consumers stop purchasing salmon altogether in an effort to avoid GE foods.

Unlike the European Union, as of today, genetically modified foods are not required to be labeled as such in the United States. The FDA has indicated that it will not require labeling of GE fish if approved which is in line with their position that labeling should not “suggest or imply that GM/GE foods are in any way different from other foods”. It seems, however, that the FDA’s position does not seem in line with public opinion. According to the bill,

“Public opinion polls indicate that 95 percent of the public want labeling of genetically modified foods and that nearly 50 percent of the public would not eat seafood that has been genetically engineered.”

Be Food Smart is based in California and we are surprised and encouraged by our state’s progressive position on this important subject. While the bill will not prevent GE salmon from being approved or possibly entering our wild fish populations, at least Californians will be able to make an educated purchase at our grocery stores and fish markets. The next step for the bill is the Appropriations Committee before being taken up by the full Assembly. Let’s hope it is approved and adopted in other states across our country. It we can’t have protection at a federal level, we need to look to our state government for solutions. We thank Assembly Member Jared Huffman for introducing the bill and the Center for Food Safety for co-sponsoring.

CA Assembly Bill No. 88
Center for Food Safety
Food Navigator
Image: E. Peter Steenstra/USFWS

Over the weekend, I took my daughter to the Ty Warner Sea Center. Between petting the sharks and holding the hermit crabs, we passed by their exhibit on consuming sustainable fish. As a part of the exhibit, they made available these handy little wallet guides to help make seafood choices when shopping or dining easier. The Monterey Bay Aquarium created the guides and they update them each year. They also have a Sushi Guide which I grabbed too.

Most health professionals will tell you that consuming fish is healthy. What you’ll learn through these guides and other resources  is, that unfortunately, many varieties are overfished or are caught/farmed in ways that harm other marine life or the environment. In addition, health concerns surrounding mercury and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) exposure are very legitimate. Below is a list of resources to help you make the best seafood choices. Want the cliff notes? Skip to the bottom and see the Super Green List of seafood.

Seafood Watch

The Monterey Bay Aquarium has a whole section of their website devoted to helping people find the best seafood options.

Mobile Apps

  • Seafood Watch has helpful smart phone apps for both the iPhone and Android. Best of all? They are free and very easy to use. A quick search on my iPhone does show other seafood apps, but most are not free.

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF)

The EDF supplied the containment information for the Seafood Watch guides. Their site features:

  • A great chart which shows the maximum servings that can be safely eaten each month of a long list of fish (with regards to mecury & PCBs)
  • A complete list of seafood with “Eco-Ratings”
  • A Fish Oil Supplement guide


Eating Well has put together their own Seafood Guide. It is a long list of fish and for each type, shows:

  • Health concerns – mercury, PCBs
  • If it is a good source of Omega-3s
  • Harvest notes – impact on environment/overfishing/farming

The Super Green List

The Monterey Bay Aquarium has identified seafood that is “Super Green,” meaning that it is good for human health and does not harm the oceans. This list highlights options that are currently on the Seafood Watch “Best Choices” list, are low in environmental contaminants (below 216 parts per billion [ppb] mercury and 11 ppb PCBs) and are good sources of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (at least the daily minimum of 250 milligrams). This list is considered the “best of the best” and was last updated September 2010.

  • Albacore Tuna (troll- or pole-caught, from the U.S. or British Columbia)
  • Freshwater Coho Salmon (farmed in tank systems, from the U.S.)
  • Oysters (farmed)
  • Pacific Sardines (wild-caught)
  • Rainbow Trout (farmed)
  • Salmon (wild-caught, from Alaska)

Image: Ramon Grosso