Quinault Nation slams approval of genetically modified salmon

Fawn Sharp, the president of the Quinault Nation of Washington. Photo from United South and Eastern Tribes

A prominent Pacific Northwest tribal leader is speaking out against the approval of the first genetically modified organism in the United States.

The Food and Drug Administration last week said AquAdvantage Salmon is safe to eat. But Fawn Sharp, the president of the Quinault Nation of Washington, said the decision prevents consumers from learning how the fish was produced.

“Beyond the fact that FDA is essentially forbidding the public the freedom of choice, its decisions run roughshod over both tribal and non-tribal fishing culture, a culture that dates back centuries and in our case thousands of years,” said Sharp, who also serves as president of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, which represents 57 tribes in six Northwest states.

A Massachusetts company called AquaBounty takes eggs from Atlantic salmon and inserts a growth hormone gene from a Chinook salmon and another gene from the ocean pout, an eel-like species. The resulting fish are raised in Canada and Panama and can grow to large sizes in 18 months instead of three years for wild or hatchery salmon.

"People need to realize that when wild salmon are managed properly, which it is, impetus is placed on habitat protection and restoration. It helps prioritize, and fund, clean water, healthy streams and rivers as well as forests, wetlands and other uplands," Sharp noted. "It helps us emphasize the clean up and prevention of pollution. It also encourages better treatment of our ocean and even our air, as well as helps safeguard our tribal sacred sites and resources."

Salmon has played an important role in Northwest tribal life for tens of thousands of years, serving as an important subsistence food and as a cornerstone of tribal economies. Ensuring the right to fish was a key component of treaty negotiations in the late 1800s.

“Speaking personally, I also oppose the idea of us, as humans, genetically modifying life as the Creator provided it," Sharp said.

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