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Northwest Tribes Cooking Up Opposition To Genetically Modified Salmon

Elaine Thompson
AP Photo
FILE -In this Sept. 20, 2010, file photo, King salmon, also known as chinook, sit on ice at the Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle, Wash.

AquAdvantage salmon were the first genetically engineered animal product meant for human consumption to be approved by the FDA. It combines the genetic material of Chinook and Atlantic salmon with eelpout to make it grow nearly twice as fast as its conventionally farmed counterparts.

“And it was done without a single consultation with tribes who have organized our lives around salmon for thousands of years,” said Valerie Segrest, with the Muckleshoot Food Sovereignty Program. She says despite a resolution passed by the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians opposing the introduction and submitted to the FDA, tribal concerns have been ignored.

“To this day, nobody has had or received a phone call from them asking if it is okay to take our cultural and intellectual property and add an eel gene to it and an Atlantic salmon gene to it and put that on the market,” Segrest said. 

Tribes and consumer groups have sued the FDA, saying it was approved without adequate environmental review.

Thecompany says there is no risk because they’re growing the fish in land-based tanks and using only sterile fish in production. But opponents say the FDA’s law has loopholes that could allow changes in that process over time. 

The cookout is free and will take placeat the new long house at the University of Washington. It will include cultural demonstrations and a salmon tasting, along with updates on the campaign and lawsuit. 

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment for KNKX with an emphasis on climate justice, human health and food sovereignty. She enjoys reporting about how we will power our future while maintaining healthy cultures and livable cities. Story tips can be sent to