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Fait accompli?

19/11/2015

Following the US government’s reckless decision to allow the development and marketing of genetically manipulated salmon – doesn’t the very phrase make your stomach heave? – I really don’t see any alternative to avoiding the consumption of salmon (and perhaps even other fish) altogether. Despite the assurances by government spokesfolk that GM salmon is ‘safe’, and that the chances of anything going wrong are ‘very small’, we simply don’t – can’t ever – know if that’s true.

It’s like nuclear power – for decades officialdom told us it was completely safe, until the 2011 disaster at Fukushima in Japan finally knocked that one on the head. But, as usual, commercial interests – in this case artfully disguised as concern for food supplies in an increasingly populous and starving world – prevail over common-sense caution.

Monkeying around with genetic material has all kinds of unpredictable implications which we are surely entitled not to be exposed to if we don’t want to be. The problem when GM products are developed and released onto the market is that none of us can ever know to what extent they will affect other (relatively) uncontaminated food products, and so find their way into stuff we innocently eat on the naive assumption that it’s GM-free.

Like the overuse of antibiotics, which has created resistant bacteria that are making a stay in hospital an ever more risky business (I for one plan to avoid it if I possibly can, and take my chances in the open air), this is a Pandora’s box of monumental proportions. If some people are prepared to take the risk for themselves, I’d say they’re welcome – except that their foolhardy choice is being imposed on the rest of us.

If, despite the bland official assurances, the modified genetic material does happen to escape and find its way into other creatures, we’ll only know when it’s had plenty of time to do its insidious work. So it isn’t just a matter of avoiding fish imported from the United States. As we all know, fish can swim, and may easily find their way across the Atlantic and Pacific into other countries’ waters, where they can mate to their hearts’ content. Salmon, in particularly, travel huge distances in the course of their lives, fighting their way up rivers to spawn in one particular pre-programmed place. Before you can say Jack Robinson, good old Scottish and Norwegian salmon may be GM. Perhaps they already are.

Meanwhile, I’m struck by the fact that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has only approved the development of GM salmon at two ‘facilities’ (another of those creepy terms) outside the USA – in Canada and Panama. If they’re so fond of the new technology, why not try it out at home first and see what happens there?

This sounds to me like yet another case of ‘extraordinary rendition’, in which the USA (along with Britain) is now a past master: get other amenable countries to do your dirty work for you, and make sure none of the media shit hits your fan. Meanwhile, tell everyone that you’re the home of the free and the land of the brave, and that we’re all safe – as long as no-one rocks the boat.

There’s also some guff about watertight precautionary measures such as sterilising fish so that they can’t mate and pass on their modified genes. Do you believe it? I don’t. Would it be 100% reliable even if it were done? Pull the other one.

But since we’re overfishing anyway, and using our vast factory ships to rob poor countries with few other food supplies of the fish that swim within easy reach of their coasts, it’s probably just as well the FDA has taken this decision – for it will surely further reduce fish consumption at least in the Western world.

It doesn’t actually matter whether GM food is or isn’t safe. We’re entitled to the information that would enable us to avoid it if we want to – and that’s a choice we’re not being given. The stuff’s being infiltrated into our food supply whether we like it or not; and commercial interests are determined to ensure that the information we need is concealed from us until the damage has been done and there’s no way back.

Fait accompli?

Over my dead body.

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One Comment
  1. Monika Sears permalink

    The plastic bags in our oceans over a period of several years get ground very small and are ingested by all the fish in the sea and are now part of the food chain. What effect do the small particles of Tesco and Sainsbury’s bags have? How quiet the press. How quiet the food agencies.

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