by Shicana Allen

AquaAdvantage salmon, the new genetically engineered fish developed by Canadian company AquaBounty, is poised to become the first biotech animal allowed for human consumption. Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is still weighing whether to offer its official approval, the nation’s two largest grocery chains—Kroger and Safeway—have already made up their minds not to carry it.  This pair joins 9,000 other food suppliers countrywide—including Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Meijer, and Aldi— who have reportedly made similar pledges to shun the “Frankenfish,” as it has been dubbed by vocal GMO opponents.

What influenced this decision by mainstream retailers?  Fierce consumer opposition. During an open comment period in 2013, the FDA received over one million letters from concerned Americans calling for the agency to reject the AquaAdvantage swimmers. It seems that producing a genetically engineered animal is more troubling to many than imposing the very same technology on plants. In any case, the dissenting voices of consumers have been heard loud and clear by many retailers and restaurants.

One could argue that rejecting GMO salmon allows supermarket chains to capitalize on anti-GMO sentiment, while continuing to carry many more common foods (soy, sugar beets, corn) chock full of dangerous biotech ingredients. Should the FDA green-light AquaAdvantage, scores of no-GMO activists and organizations aim to block the salmon’s channels to the market.

The Kroger/Safeway announcement indicates a major win for both consumers and several organizations working to stop the salmon, including the Institute for Responsible Technology, which initiated the petitions to supermarkets and contacts with their executives. It is critical that the FDA deny the current application for transgenic salmon in order to set a precedent, thereby preventing other genetically modified animals from entering the global food marketplace, including at least 35 other species of GMO fish currently under development.

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Shicana Allen has been a health, environmental, and food safety advocate, writer, and public speaker for over 20 years.