In April 2016, we posted about the lawsuit brought by environmental food and safety groups, along with fisherman trade associations, to reverse the FDA’s approval of a genetically engineered (GE) salmon. The complaint alleges that the FDA failed to evaluate how the GE salmon will impact the environment and that the farmed salmon will inevitably escape, “interbreed with wild endangered salmon, compete with them for food and space, or pass on infectious disease . . . .”
Continue Reading GE Salmon: What’s Really at Steak

Last November, we posted that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had approved a genetically engineered (GE) salmon: AquaBounty Techonologies’ AquAdvantage Salmon. This approval marked the first time that the FDA authorized selling a genetically engineered animal for human consumption.

Immediate backlash followed the FDA’s November 19, 2015 announcement from environmental and consumer advocacy groups. On March 31, 2016, environmental and food safety groups, as well as fisherman trade associations, sued the FDA and related agencies in federal court in California. The suit seeks to reverse the FDA’s approval of the fish for human consumption.
Continue Reading Lawsuit Challenges FDA Approval of Genetically Engineered Salmon

On November 19, 2015, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved as fit for human consumption a genetically engineered (GE) salmon. AquaBounty Technologies AquAdvantage Salmon has been modified to grow faster than non-engineered farmed salmon. This marks the first time the FDA has authorized the sale of a genetically engineered animal as food.

Because 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,” AquAdvantage will not need to label the fish as genetically modified. The FDA further found that approving the GE salmon would have no negative environmental impact.
Continue Reading FDA Approves First Genetically Engineered Animal for Human Consumption

On July 23, 2015, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that would restrict state and local governments from regulating the use of genetically modified (GM) plants in food if that regulation affects interstate commerce.

The bill, H.R. 1599, passed in a 275-150 vote after the bill’s main sponsor, Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., claimed that the bill is in line with the “overwhelming” scientific evidence on the safety of GM foods.  Specifically, Pompeo said that “[p]recisely zero pieces of credible evidence have been presented that foods produced with biotechnology pose any risk to our health and safety.”  He further stated that “ it is not the place of government — government at any level — to arbitrarily step in and mandate that one plant product should be labeled based solely on how it is bred, while another, identical product is free of government warning labels.”
Continue Reading The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act Restricts State and Local Government from Regulating GMO in Food

Almost every day we are bombarded with reports of scientific studies purportedly proving that exposure to, or consumption of, some substance will cause us harm. Recent examples include claims that vaccines cause autism, BPA kills, and genetically modified foods engender disease. While there is little to no filter on what “science” is presented to the general public through the available forms of media and communications, what jurors are allowed to hear in courts of law is very different. Courts require much tougher standards before admitting scientific evidence. Good science proposes a hypothesis then sets about to try and disprove it – – not just seek “proof” supporting the hypothesis. Good science results from research, application of the scientific method, and peer review. Courts look to these criteria when determining whether to admit scientific evidence under the Frye or Daubert standards. Judges thereby serve a “gate-keeping function[] to differentiate serious science from ‘junk science.’”   

But outside of the courtroom there are no judicial gatekeepers. As a result junk science has crept its way into the headlines. So how can the public differentiate between legitimate science and junk science? One answer is to trust credited experts, not sensationalized headlines. Three recent examples highlight the pitfalls of jumping to conclusions: 
Continue Reading Spring Cleaning: Throwing Junk Science Where It Belongs

In California, a federal judge approved a class certification motion in a suit against ConAgra Food Inc. for alleged mislabeling of its Wesson oil products.  The dispute is based on allegations that ConAgra mislabeled oil as “100% natural.”  Plaintiffs argue the oil is not natural because it contains genetically modified ingredients. Further up the coast in Oregon, voters will decide this fall whether to require genetically modified food sold in the state to be labeled as such.  This issue has come up in several states, including Washington and California, where voters have rejected similar proposals in recent years.

The California case, In re: Conagra Foods Inc., includes certified classes of consumers from California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, and Texas.  U.S. District Judge Margaret M. Morrow will allow plaintiffs to pursue claims brought under the states’ various consumer protection statutes, but she will not allow an injunctive relief class to proceed.
Continue Reading Updates on West Coast GMO Battles

European Union lawmakers have agreed to pursue legislation that will allow each member state to ban genetically modified organisms (“GMOs”) from growing within their borders.  According to a December 4, 2014, press release the European Parliament reached a provisional political agreement on the draft legislation on GMO cultivation.  Even when GMOs have been deemed safe, this proposal still would allow the 28 EU member nations to ban GMO growing for reasons other than food safety, including socioeconomic impacts, environmental concerns and agricultural policy objectives.
Continue Reading EU States May Get the Right to Say “No” to GMO