Some U.S. grocers won't sell GE seafood

Vendor Taho Kakutania, left, playfully encourages tourist Anne Moral, of Tucson, Ariz., to kiss a coho salmon at the Pike Place Fish Market Monday, Sept. 20, 2010, in Seattle. U.S. government food regulators pondered Monday whether to say, for the first time, that it's OK to market a genetically engineered animal as safe for American people to eat. The Food and Drug Administration is holding two days of hearings on a request to market genetically modified salmon. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Last week’s introduction of a bill that would require labeling of genetically-engineered foods sold in Pennsylvania was only the first of several recent developments.

On Wednesday, a coalition of consumer, health, food safety and fishing groups announced that 2,000 U.S. grocery stores have committed to not sell genetically engineered seafood if it is allowed onto the market.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is conducting a final review that could lead to the approval of genetically-engineered salmon. This particular fish would grow to market weight in half the time that salmon does now.

The stores include Trader Joe’s, Aldi, Whole Foods and some regional chains.

Heather Whitehead, online campaigns director at Center for Food Safety, one of the groups in the coalition, called the genetic engineering of salmon “an unnecessary, unpopular and risky new technology” and said it posed risks “to human health, the environment, wild salmon, and the sustainable fishing industry.”

The announcement was part of the coalition’s launch of a campaign for seafood that is free of genetic engineering.

Also on Wednesday, the Center for Science in the Public Interest asked U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsak to institute rules that would limit the impact of genetically-engineered crops on neighboring farms.

Farmers who grow conventional and organic crops — and often charge a premium for them — are worried about “contamination” from nearby GE crops.

In my column on Monday, Annmarie Cantrell said that’s one of the reasons she and her husband Sam, who farm Maysie’s Farm in Chester County, no longer plant corn. They’re worried that pollen from nearby fields of GE corn would blow to their farm.

The center’s biotechnology director, Gregory Jaffe, suggested in a letter to Vilsak that the ag department come up with “segregation tools” to keep GE and non-GE seeds and crops separate.

He also suggested implementing financial incentives for farmers who set aside buffer land between GE and conventional crops.

On April 21, a Cherry Hill wellness doctor, Allan Magaziner, is hosting a wellness symposium that will include discussion of GE foods. One of the keynote speakers is keynote speakers will be Jeffrey Smith, author of the book, Seeds of Deception.

Pennsylvania Sen. Daylin Leach (D., Montgomery), who introduced the legislation requiring labeling of foods that contain genetically-engineered ingredients, also will speak.