by: Natasha Chen Updated:
ISSAQUAH, Wash. - A dozen protesters met with a Costco executive Thursday to deliver a petition, urging the wholesale company not to sell genetically modified fish.
The protesters told KIRO 7 they are particularly concerned about fish produced by a company called Aqua Bounty, who crosses the DNA of three different types of fish to create salmon that grows twice as fast.
The fish is currently not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but several grocers have already pledged not to sell the fish if it ever gets approved. The protesters said those grocers include Target, Trader Joe’s, QFC, and Safeway.
What the labels mean:
- “USDA Organic:” This means it’s also non-GMO. It’s been tested by the USDA.
- “Non-GMO:” The blue sticker with the orange butterfly is given by a private, third-party company that producers can pay to have it certified as non-GMO.
- “Wild:” Seafood is NOT tested by the USDA for the organic certification process. Wild caught fish is the best assurance that the fish was not genetically modified.
- “Farm Raised:” While not all farm-raised fish are genetically modified, genetically engineered fish must be raised on a farm.
In a video shot by protesters when they met with the chief operating officer of merchandising, the executive told them it would be hard to promise never to sell the product: “That would be disingenuous to say ‘never.’ Never is a long time, right?”
“They’re not listening to Costco members that are saying that they don’t want genetically modified foods,” said Danielle Friedman, the organizing director of Community Alliance for Global Justice.
KIRO 7 asked a couple of Costco customers, who said they don’t like the sound of genetically engineered fish.
Geri Carlson, who said she choose not to purchase farm-raised fish, said, “I think Costco should make their business decision like I make my personal decision.”
Among the protesters was Dylan Knutson, of Loki Fish Co.
He said, “We’re skeptical of it, we don’t want it in our marketplace. We don’t want this to be approved, and we don’t want it to be sold. Because it’s not going to be labeled once it gets approved.”
In 2013, a Washington initiative to require labeling of GMO foods failed. There is currently no federal mandate to do so.
Meg Kennedy, the sustainable foods advocate for Central Co-Op, said her job is to research each product and trace its ingredients to the source.
Kennedy said she asks for proof from companies who claim to be GMO-free. So far, no one has lied, and many companies can provide proof.
She said Central Co-Op has never sold farm-raised fish, let alone genetically modified fish.
“[The staff] know, not just where it’s from, what part of the world, but who it’s coming from: what company, what fishermen,” she said.
Both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Health Canada told KIRO 7 Aqua Bounty’s fish have not been approved for sale at this time.
KIRO 7 received this statement from Costco:
“Currently pending before the United States Food and Drug Administration is a request for approval to import to the United States-farmed salmon that is genetically modified. This species is said by its proponents to be more efficient in converting feed to gain. Efficiency in aquaculture is a factor that we consider in our sourcing, particularly reliance on forage fisheries for fish oil and fish meal. Based on the information available to us at this time, however, and the absence of regulatory approval, we do not plan to sell GMO salmon. We will continue to monitor development.”
KIRO 7 clarified with Costco staff that this does not necessarily mean the company will sign the pledge not to sell the product.