CA Assembly fails to pass bill to label GE fish

Consumers Union deeply dismayed at the failure of a bill that would have required labeling of genetically engineered fish, and protect consumer choice.

For Immediate Release: January 19, 2012

Consumers Union Dismayed by California State Assembly’s Failure to Pass Historic Labeling on First Genetically Engineered Fish

San Francisco, CA–Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, today expressed deep dismay that the California State Assembly Appropriations Committee failed to pass historic legislation to label genetically engineered (GE) fish. The Consumer Right to Know Act, AB88, introduced by Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, would have protected the public’s right to know how their food is produced while the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reviews the first proposed commercialization of salmon genetically engineered to mature more quickly.

“We are very disappointed that the California State Assembly failed to pass legislation that would have protected consumers’ right to know what is in their food,” said Elisa Odabashian, director, West Coast office and state campaigns, for Consumers Union.

Consumers Union believes that GE fish should not be allowed into the food supply unless it is proved safe for humans and the environment. At the very least, it should be labeled. One of the most critical issues before the FDA is the potential for GE fish to cause consumers to experience increased allergic responses. Consumers Union opposes putting the salmon on the market on the grounds that the agency’s safety assessment was woefully inadequate. GE fish not only pose an increased risk of severe, even life-threatening, allergic reactions to sensitive individuals, but could also pose serious risks to wild fish populations through competition and spread of disease, but these risks have not been adequately researched.

Public opinion clearly and consistently supports mandatory labeling. Consumers Union’s polling found that 95 percent of the public wants labeling of GE animals, while other polls found that only 35 percent of the public said that they would be willing to eat seafood that has been genetically engineered. Consumers sent nearly 400,000 comments to the FDA demanding the agency reject GE salmon, or at least require that it be labeled.

“While the FDA decides whether to approve this questionable technology, California lost an important opportunity to act to protect consumers and their families by requiring the labeling of GE fish,” said Odabashian. “We will continue to push FDA to take a harder look at allowing GE fish into the food supply, and if they decide to do so, to label it as ‘genetically engineered’. Consumers should have access to the information they deserve so that they can make informed choices in the marketplace about the food they eat.”

Contact: Naomi Starkman, 917.539.3924-c