The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is not known for good decisions, but they got this one right. A couple of weeks ago they denied the FDA’s latest attempt to hide thousands of pages of key government documents related to the agency’s approval of genetically engineered (GE) salmon for human consumption.
That’s right. You read it correctly. Genetically engineered salmon are now destined for a place on your grocers counter and you will never know it. The FDA did not want the public to know details of the approval process gone through by the agency charged with the responsibility of keeping our food supply safe. Trust us, they said. The FDA did not want you to know why they approved an engineered salmon that contains DNA from the Atlantic salmon, the deep water ocean eelpout, and the Pacific Chinook salmon. This would be the first time any genetically engineered animal has been approved for commercial sale and ultimate human consumption.
What is the big deal about this fish? It is different. The GE version is intended to grow faster than conventionally farmed or wild-caught salmon. The reason: new DNA has been engineered in. The new DNA is a growth hormone gene that is turned on all the time. The GE salmon is claimed to get to commercial size in half the time. Further, it is claimed by the FDA to not be significantly different from wild-caught or farm raised salmon. The truth: it may look the same from the outside, but it is different genetically.
One big concern is if the GE fish were to escape into the wild. It could threaten wild salmon populations by out-competing them for scarce resources and habitat, by mating with endangered salmon species, and by introducing new diseases. The FDA has been heavily criticized for failing to fully evaluate these potential impacts. The developers claim these concerns are meaningless because the GE fish are to be sterile females all raised in confinement tanks. Even that raises additional questions. How are the GE fish becoming 100% female?
In short, the FDA wants to hide. The pubic has a right to know in detail how the agency came to its approval decision for genetically engineered salmon, especially because the FDA’s approach will likely serve as a precedent for the assessment of future GE food animals. The FDA is funded by tax dollars which means the records they create can and should be available to the public and to citizens seeking to know all. The only exceptions should be withholding information critical to national security.
Under the court ruling, the FDA is required to fully complete the record with all relevant documents regarding its approval of genetically engineered salmon. In this case, the public right to know is being protected. It is vital all government agencies get the message hiding is not acceptable. Are you listening EPA and USDA?
“Beyond a critical point within a finite space, freedom diminishes as numbers increase. This is as true of humans in the finite space of a planetary ecosystem as it is of gas molecules in a sealed flask. The human question is not how many can possibly survive within the system, but what kind of existence is possible for those who do survive.” Pardot Kynes / Planetologist
Kynes, a fictional “planetologist” from the Dunes universe, has hit the nail right on the head. Too many people on a planet floating in the vast expanse of space, like Earth, leads to collapse of the supporting ecosystem and a race to the bottom for the quality of life. Ultimately, human life descends to the base needs of food, water, and shelter.
The United States of America is at a decision point. Population expansion and immigration pressures from all over the world are at our doorstep. We will face up to them or go down the road to eventual degradation if we have not already stepped foot on that road. The bold fact is that the United States of America does not need additional numbers of people. We need to be concentrating on elevating the quality of life for those already American citizens, not bringing more and more people in from other parts of the world.
Congress is in the process of playing games with the future of the country and the lives of our citizens. President Trump has already gone well beyond “compromise” with his four pillars of immigration policy reform. He has taken the position he will accept allowing nearly two million illegal immigrants a path not only to residency but to citizenship in exchange for building the southern border wall, ending the incredibly insane visa lottery program, and ending or severely curtailing chain migration. He has gone as far as he should go and maybe beyond; period. There are those of us who believe he has gone too far already in a willingness to appease or “compromise”.
The road block seems to be the U.S. Senate where presently 60 votes or more are required to pass any new immigration legislation. This matter is too critical to allow this. The future health or likely survival of this country is at stake. If there was an army at our door like was the case with World War II, we would not hesitate to take whatever action was required. We are at a similar point whether recognized or not. It is time for the U.S. Senate to face up and change its rules.
The success of passage of meaningful and tough immigration legislation that mirrors what has been proposed by President Donald Trump is in the hands of one person: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. McConnell is the road block. He is the one stopping the elimination of the 60 vote rule, part of which was eliminated by the Democrats when they controlled the Senate. The rest needs to now go. If it doesn’t, the future of the United States of America is in jeopardy and should be laid at the feet of McConnell and the Republicans. No excuses. And God help us if Democrats ever again gain control of Congress.