There’s Something Fishy About Failures to Label GMO Food
by Dan Bacher
The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, a big funder of the Public Policy Institute (PPIC) studies to build the peripheral tunnels and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative, is also funding a group, SeaWeb, that proudly supports a company farming salmon fed with DuPont’s genetically modified yeast.
The Packard Foundation has funded SeaWeb, an “environmental” NGO that describes itself as “the only international, nonprofit organization exclusively using the science of communications to fundamentally shift the way people interact with the ocean,” with millions of dollars in recent years.
For example, the foundation gave $1,662,500 to Sea Web in 2010. The foundation that year granted $812,500 for “sustainable markets” work through the Seafood Choices Alliance; $250,000 to support activities of the Philanthropy Awareness Initiative to improve philanthropy sector communications; and $600,000 to support a “marine-focused communications program” in the Western Pacific.
For a complete list of Packard Foundation grants to SeaWeb, go to: http://www.packard.org/grants/grants-database/seaweb-26/
Verlasso, a joint venture between AquaChile and DuPont (the company that developed napalm!) received the “2012 Innovation Award” at the 10th International Seafood Summit in Hong Kong organized by SeaWeb.
The event “recognizes leaders in the seafood community who have utilized creative and innovative solutions to ocean issues,” according to an article in the Fish Farming Xpert, September 12. SeaWeb praised the allegedly “sustainable” and “innovative” practices of Verlasso. (http://www.fishfarmingxpert.com/index.php?page_id=76&article_id=95755)
“The SeaWeb Innovation Awards go to those who acted before they had to; who chose a different way before they lost the luxury of choice; who did the right – and not always the most profitable– thing,” claimed Dawn Mr. Martin, President of SeaWeb. “We are honored to name Dalian Zhangzidao Fishery Group, Google (Mt. View) Food Team, Chef Nora Pouillon and Verlasso as the winners of the Innovation Award for dedicating themselves to creating a more equitable relationship between humanity and the ocean. They are each charting the way for others to follow into the future and we are honored and grateful for their leadership.”
“Verlasso believes an increased awareness and demand for sustainable seafood will also lead to better standards,” the piece continued. “Its approach is aimed at educating and engaging diverse communities about seafood sustainability. For its commercial partners, Verlasso offers a sustainable salmon training course for distributor sales teams, wait staff and fish counter staff. For consumers it also developed a comprehensive website, a Sustainable Salmon Cooking School Curriculum, and an active social media campaign where consumers can learn how to make informed choices at the seafood counter. Verlasso also hosts round table discussions with influencers in the culinary, nutritional, media, and environmental communities to explore how we can collaborate on sustainable seafood initiatives.”
The CEO of Verlasso then joined in to describe the “revolutionary” practices of the corporation.
“As aquaculture grows there is an urgent need to implement aquaculture practices now that will allow us to continue farming in the future,” said Scott Nichols, CEO of Verlasso. “At Verlasso we have discovered and implemented revolutionary practices today to preserve healthy oceans for tomorrow. We are thrilled to have our work recognized by SeaWeb with the SeaWeb Innovation Award.”
The article then claimed, “The sustainable approach to salmon farming promoted by Verlasso has dramatically reduced the Fish In Fish Out (FIFO) ratio for fish oil and fish meal – to an aquaculture record-low 1:1 –and reduced pen densities with a focus on animal welfare.”
Obama’s FDA has not yet approved sale of genetically engineered (GMO) salmon, but Verlasso’s new, allegedly “harmoniously raised” salmon just marketed last month has outraged fishermen, grassroots environmentalists, consumer groups and other supporters of sustainable fisheries.
“Generation Green,” the consumer action wing of the Center for Environmental Health, said “there’s something fishy” about the failure to label GMO food fed to Verlasso-brand salmon.
“Sold by AquaChile, the Verlasso-brand salmon claims environmental cred by reducing the use of fish feed used to raise their salmon. Instead of fish feed, the company uses yeast to increase the levels of nutritionally valued omega-3 fatty acids in the salmon,” Generation Green stated.
“What the company isn’t telling about their harmonious fish is that it appears that the yeast feed additive has been genetically engineered for high omega-3 levels,” the organization revealed. “As a 2009 DuPont environmental report notes, the company floated the idea of GMO yeast for fish feed to seven ‘environmental’ groups (the groups are not named but DuPont says the project was developed in consultation with the World Wildlife Fund’s “Salmon Aquaculture Dialogue”). This July, DuPont announced a partnership with AquaChile on a ‘sustainable aquaculture’ project to reduce salmon feed with the use of an ‘innovative’ new yeast additive.”
The Packard Foundation’s funding of an organization that is greenwashing a joint venture between a Chilean aquaculture business and DuPont that raises salmon fed with GMO yeast is not surprising.
The Packard Foundation has funded, along with the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation and Stephen Bechtel Foundation, the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) studies advocating the construction of the peripheral tunnels. This project will lead to the destruction of the California Delta ecosystem and hasten the extinction of Central Valley chinook salmon, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other fish populations. (http://blogs.alternet.org/danbacher/2012/06/05/bechtel-foundation-funds-studies-supporting-californias-big-dig/)
The David and Lucillle Packard Foundation also contributed $8.2 million to fund hearings under the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative through the shadowy Resources Legacy Fund Foundation. (http://blogs.alternet.org/danbacher/2011/02/18/the-corporate-money-behind-the-mlpa-initiative/)
The Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) is a law, signed by Governor Gray Davis in 1999, designed to create a network of marine protected areas off the California Coast. However, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2004 created the privately-funded MLPA “Initiative” to “implement” the law, effectively eviscerating the MLPA.
The “marine protected areas” created under the MLPA Initiative fail to protect the ocean from oil spills and drilling, water pollution, military testing, seismic testing, wave and wind energy projects, corporate aquaculture and all other uses of the ocean other than fishing and gathering.
The MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Forces that oversaw the implementation of “marine protected areas” included a big oil lobbyist, marina developer, real estate executive and other individuals with numerous conflicts of interest. Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the president of the Western States Petroleum Association, served on the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Forces for the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast and chaired the task force for the South Coast.
To put things in perspective, Zeke Grader, Executive Director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA), noted that the Packard Foundation “also helped fund some good things for salmon and funded over the years both IFR (the Institute of Fishery Resources) and PCFFA.”
“PCFFA is very much anti-GMO, anti-Peripheral Canal (or tunnels), anti-ocean aquaculture (along with salmon and most shrimp), and PCFFA has been extremely critical of the MLPA Initiative effort here in California,” said Grader. “So, in truth, Packard has funded groups on both sides of these issues; that’s a lot better than foundations such as the Moore Foundation with their privatization agenda.”
Nonetheless, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation does a great disservice to the environment, struggling salmon and other fish populations and fishing communities by dumping millions into an organization that backs GMO-fed farmed salmon, as well as by funding studies and groups that support the peripheral canal or tunnel and granting $8.2 million, through the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation, to create alleged “marine protected areas” that fail to actually protect the ocean.
The promotion of GMO-fed Atlantic salmon as “sustainable” seafood highlights the urgent need for Californians to vote yes on Proposition 37 this November. This proposition, the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act, is a common-sense November ballot measure that will help consumers make informed choices about the food they eat.
In the first ever peer-reviewed, long-term animal study of GMO foods, genetically engineered corn was linked to mammary tumors, kidney and liver damage and other serious illnesses, according to a statement from the Yes on 37 campaign. The findings were published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology: http://research.sustainablefoodtrust.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Final-Paper.pdf
Written with broad input from food groups, industry, science, legal and health experts Proposition 37 requires clear labels letting consumers know if foods are genetically modified. We already have food labels showing nutrition, allergy information and other facts consumers want to know. This measure simply adds information telling us if food is produced using genetic engineering. For more information, go to: http://www.carighttoknow.org.
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