Despite consumers saying they don't want it and several large grocery store chains saying they won't carry it, the Food and Drug Administration approved GMO salmon for consumption last fall. Now a coalition of plaintiffs, represented by the groups Earthjustice and the Center for Food Safety, have filed a lawsuit challenging the FDA's approval of the genetically modified fish.

The coalition includes Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, Institute for Fisheries Resources, Golden Gate Salmon Association, Kennebec Reborn, Friends of Merrymeeting Bay, Ecology Action Centre, Food & Water Watch, Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, Cascadia Wildlands and the Center for Food Safety.

The plaintiffs have several complaints, saying the FDA failed to take many things into consideration before its approval, according to a news release from Food & Water Watch. The FDA, the lawsuit says, failed to analyze and prevent the risks to wild salmon, the environment and fishing communities. It also failed to consider the risk that this salmon could escape and threaten the natural salmon population.

“FDA’s decision is as unlawful as it is irresponsible,” said George Kimbrell, senior attorney for Center for Food Safety and co-counsel for the plaintiffs. “This case is about protecting our fisheries and ocean ecosystems from the foreseeable harms of the first-ever GE fish, harms FDA refused to even consider, let alone prevent. But it’s also about the future of our food: FDA should not, and cannot, responsibly regulate this GE animal, nor any future GE animals, by treating them as drugs under a 1938 law.”

The 1938 law referenced is the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. It was meant to ensure the safety of drugs administered to livestock for diseases. Genetically engineered salmon are not natural salmon that are being administered drugs. They are "entirely new GE animals," animals that can pass their genes on to the next generation. If they mate with non-GMO salmon, the entire salmon population could become tainted by transgenic contamination.

It should be noted that while the FDA approved GMO salmon for consumption, it won't be available any time soon. Last year, language was added to the omnibus bill that prohibited the FDA from introducing any food that contains genetically engineered salmon until the agency publishes its final labeling guidelines. Those guidelines could take a long time to be written and approved, so for now, consumers don't need to be concerned about unknowingly eating genetically modified salmon. If this lawsuit is successful, they may never need to worry about it.

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Groups sue FDA over GMO salmon
A coalition of plaintiffs hit the FDA with a lawsuit saying it did not consider environmental risks when it approved the genetically modified fish.