The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made major headlines this week when it granted approval for the first genetically engineered animal intended for human consumption. Dubbed AquAvantage salmon, the fish are designed to reach harvest maturity much faster than their non-genetically modified counterparts.
The approval has many consumers leery of genetically modified foods concerned because the FDA did not require the maker of the salmon, AquaBounty, to label the fish as genetically modified. Instead, the fish can be marketed and sold under the name “Atlantic Salmon.” FDA approval for genetically modified foods involves a determination of whether the altered food item in question is materially different from its non-genetically altered counterparts.
Stated differently, the FDA does not require a genetically modified food to be labeled as such unless the genetically engineered food is found to materially differ from its non-genetically engineered counterpart.
Ultimately, the FDA determined that there are “no biologically relevant differences in the nutritional profile of AquAdvantage Salmon compared to that of other farm-raised Atlantic salmon.”
Many consumer and environmental groups have opposed the FDA’s approval, claiming that the FDA’s failure to require labeling of genetically engineered foods contravenes consumers’ alleged right to know what is in the foods they are being marketed and ultimately consuming. The Center for Food Safety, a consumer interest group, has stated that it will prepare and file a lawsuit challenging the FDA’s approval of AquAvantage salmon. Additionally, a number of major retailers have issued statements informing the public that they will not sell the genetically altered salmon, including Whole Foods, Costco, Target, and Trader Joe’s.
Genetic engineering has taken center stage in many state courts as ordinances have been enacted at the local level requiring genetically engineered foods to bear a label. Vermont was the first state to successfully pass a GM labeling law, which a major industry trade group, Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), promptly challenged in federal court. GMA’s core argument is that the labeling requirement is forced speech in violation of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. They also contend that the law imposes costly and burdensome requirements that are not outweighed by the legislation’s benefits. Proponents cite the associated costs and administrative aspects of implementing the law as negligible and justified by providing consumers with full disclosures about their food.
At the federal level, some lawmakers have introduced a bill that would effectively preempt state and local governments from imposing mandatory labeling requirements for genetically altered foods in favor of a voluntary labeling system administered through the FDA. The bill passed in the House of Representatives and is waiting for the Senate’s vote.
If you or someone you know has suffered injuries as the result of a mislabeled or contaminated food, you may be entitled to compensation. At Moll Law Group, or dedicated product liability lawyers have helped many Florida, New York, and California plaintiffs, among other consumers nationwide, seek the compensation they deserve after suffering avoidable and unnecessary harm. Based in Chicago, Illinois, we offer a free consultation to help you learn about the rights and options available to you. Call us now at 312-462-1700 or contact us online to set up your consultation.