Costco Joins a Host of Retailers Refusing to Sell GMO Salmon
Last week, the Federal Drug Administration approved the first genetically modified animal to be commercially sold and consumed nationwide. But instead of U.S. retailers taking favorably to the historic news, more than 60 supermarket chains are refusing to sell it in their stores—Costco now included.
The second-largest retailer in the world (Walmart is the first) said in a recent statement that it hasn’t sold and doesn’t intend to sell GMO salmon.
The news comes nearly three months after more than 18,000 people sent letters to Costco stores across the nation urging the retailer to forgo selling the salmon created by AquaBounty Technologies. In June, a coalition composed of fishers, Costco customers, the Community Alliance for Global Justice, and other advocacy groups rallied outside the chain location nearest the company’s Washington state headquarters and presented more than 300,000 petition signatures from nationwide organizations. At the time, Costco responded to the petition by saying it didn’t plan to sell GMO salmon—and the chain has reaffirmed that stance in the wake of the FDA approval.
Costco joins supermarket chains including Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Safeway, and Kroger in promising not to sell the genetically modified fish, according to environmental group Friends of the Earth.
“Salmon is too important for our diets, economy, and cultural heritage to accept anything made in a lab—we want the real deal and applaud Costco for ensuring its customers that’s what they’ll get when they shop there,” Heather Day, executive director of Seattle-based Community Alliance for Global Justice, a grassroots group focused on social justice and sustainability, said in a statement.
The GMO salmon will not be labeled as such, as the government doesn’t require foods containing GMOs to be labeled, and the FDA noted in its approval of AquAdvantage that it would not need to be designated as a genetically modified product. Instead, AquaBounty CEO Ron Stotish told The Washington Post last week that the fish would likely be marketed as Atlantic salmon. The fish has an added gene, which the FDA classifies as a drug, that allows it to grow much more rapidly.
Though there’s no evidence that eating genetically modified salmon presents a health risk, there is concern that accidental crossbreeding with wild salmon populations could have detrimental effects on the species. The limited approval requires that the fish be raised in one of two land-based aquaculture systems in Canada and Panama.
Walmart is the only major grocery chain that has yet to weigh in on the controversial salmon. Were it to reject the product, that would mean another 5,000 fewer stores across the country where the fish might be sold.