Food Safety News reports (along with The Hill) that eleven U.S. Senators have sent a letter asking the FDA to cease consideration of the entry into the market of salmon that has been genetically engineered to grow faster. Whatever you think of the idea of genetically modified food in general, and salmon in particular, the involvement of Congress in a product decision has to be questioned. Is it bad politics? Is it bad science? Does it leave a worse taste in our mouths than genetically modified anything.
First of all, they may not have noticed, but the credibility of Congress as an institution, and the individuals who make it up, is not exactly riding at an all time high. But secondly, and more importantly, they are not scientists (at times, they are not even logical). When politicians, even ones who are policy makers, try to direct science based on anything other than scientific reasoning, the floodgate is opened for other politically based influence over what should be a clean process.
But in fairness, it is the process on which the letter is focused.
"One of the most serious concerns … is the FDA has no adequate process to review a GE animal intended as a human food product. FDA is considering this GE fish through its process for reviewing a new drug to be used by animals, not for creation of a new animal, especially one intended for human consumption. Clearly this is inappropriate."
The letter goes on to say that the process lacks transparency.
Despite the focus on the process, there are two issues at stake. The first is obviously the process, but the second perhaps more hidden one is the fear of genetically engineered foods. Salmon is not the first GE food issue and aside from genetic issues, progress in the processing of food such as irradiation, for example, have traditionally faced stiff opposition.
If Congress wants a new process, then that is something to work out with the FDA. Genetically modified food products didn't just sneak up on us, this has been a long time coming so one has to ask why, if the process is not adequate, the question is only being raised now. Fine, fix the process. But if the action is aimed at a specific product – it is troubling. Remember back only to the recent FDA fiasco with Plan B – the "morning after" pill found to be both safe and effective for an RX-OTC switch, but where the approval was delayed for months and months based not on science, but on the politics of the situation. Politics and product approval shouldn't be mixed.