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Bay Area Grocery Stores Pledge Not to Sell Genetically Modified Fish

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering page, Millions Against Monsanto page and our California News page.

In a dramatic sign of the growing wariness about genetically modified food, some of the nation's largest grocers, including Trader Joe's and Whole Foods, will announce Wednesday they will not sell a type of salmon engineered by a biotech firm.

The announcement comes as the Food and Drug Administration is expected in the coming months to give the go-ahead to the modified salmon, the first such animal approved for widespread human consumption. The announcement is likely to add momentum to the national movement to label or even eliminate genetically modified foods.

"Stores see the writing on the wall -- Americans don't want to touch this fish," said Eric Hoffman, food and technology policy campaigner at Friends of the Earth, the environmental organization collecting the grocery store pledges. "The tipping point is coming soon."

Home to a cuisine culture that pioneered the organic food movement, along with a strong environmental consciousness, the Bay Area has been a key hub for much of the debate over genetically modified foods. Proposition 37, which proposed labeling genetically modified foods and which received a majority of the vote in most Bay Area counties, ignited the discussion and, despite its failure in the November election, inspired similar proposals in other states.

But with the exception of Whole Foods, which this month announced it would label all GMO foods by 2018, grocers have up till now been mostly silent on the issue. This announcement could bring enough awareness to the issues, said Hoffman, to force legislative action.

"There's more energy now than there has been in a long time," he said.

The fish, a cross of Atlantic and Pacific salmon, is safe to eat and "indistinguishable" from other salmon, according to AquaBounty, the Massachusetts biotech company that is developing it. In December, the FDA concluded that the salmon would not have a significant impact on the environment.

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