Is Obama Kowtowing to Anti-Biotech Activists?

Back in the early days of his administration, President Barack Obama promised that he would not countenance the politicization of science. Specifically the president said:

It is about letting scientists like those here today do their jobs, free from manipulation or coercion, and listening to what they tell us, even when it’s inconvenient – especially when it’s inconvenient. It is about ensuring that scientific data is never distorted or concealed to serve a political agenda – and that we make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology.

For the past 17 years, AquaBounty Technologies has been doggedly pursuing Food and Drug Administration approval of its biotech-enhanced salmon. The company's salmon contain two genes, one from a fish called a pout and another from Chinook salmon that enable them to grow twice as fast as wild salmon while consuming 10 to 25 percent less feed. In addition, the company plans to produce only triploid (three sets instead of the normal two sets of chromosomes) females that are sterile.

The Genetic Literacy Project has just released FDA documents showing that way back in April that the agency had concluded that the Aquabounty fish posed no health or environmental problems and should be approved. Specifically the FDA noted:

With respect to food safety, FDA has concluded that food from AquaAdvantage Salmon is as safe as food from conventional Atlantic Salmon, and that there is a reasonable certainty of no harm from consumption of food from triploid AquaAdvantage Salmon...

Based on the evidence collected and evaluated by FDA, FDA has made the preliminary determination that it is reasonable to believe that approval of the AquaAdvantage Salmon NADA will not have any significant impacts on the quality of the human environment in the United States (including populations of endangered Atlantic salmon) when produced and grown under the conditions of use for the proposed action.

Over at Slate, Jon Entine, head of the Genetic Literacy Project, is reporting that White House officials afraid of backlash from anti-biotech and environmental activists may have told the FDA to set on its findings until after the election. Slate reports:

But within days of the expected public release of the EA [environmental assessment] this spring, the application was frozen. The delay, sources within the government say, came after meetings with the White House, which was debating the political implications of approving the GM salmon, a move likely to infuriate a portion of its base.

It's ridiculous that it's taken this long for the regulatory process to reach the conclusion that the product is safe for consumers and the environment. Now we will get to see if the president will keep his promise that his adminisration will "make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology."

Go here to read the whole article in Slate.

Disclosure: I loathe the taste of salmon, but I promise to eat one of these as soon as they come onto market.

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  • ||

    Is Obama Kowtowing to Anti-Biotech Activists?

    My guess would be an absolute yes.

    Disclosure: I loathe the taste of salmon

    Oh Ron. What is wrong with you? Have you eaten it raw, where it is absolutely amazing?

  • Ron Bailey||

    E: I tried some "salmon candy" that wasn't TOO hideous.

  • ||

    So you haven't eaten it raw? There is almost nothing better than a piece of raw salmon sashimi with wide bands of white fat. The fattier the better. Oh man, I'm getting hungry.

  • RBS||

    Food threads always make me hungry. Especially when I don't actually have any of the food mentioned readily available.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Where is wylie? At this moment, I'm eating fried chicken.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Also: fried chicken.

  • Killazontherun||

    I just got a package of Omaha steaks for Christmas delivered to the house. Can't wait to see what the hubub is about with that product later tonight.

  • ||

    You know, I have found bifurcation between tuna people and salmon people w.r.t. sashimi. And I fall on the tuna side. Although if you can sear the salmon skin and get that delicious fat to bubble out just a little, then the contrast to the cold raw meat is fabulous.

  • SugarFree||

    I prefer the salmon skin over the meat, actually. Hmm... ocean bacon...

  • Rights-Minimalist Autocrat||

    What? I like them both.

  • Killazontherun||

    Definitely on the salmon side of that argument. I hate tuna.

  • Rights-Minimalist Autocrat||

    The salmon is certainly prettier.

  • ||

    I prefer less fatty sushi. The taste of fat, while nice, is very monotone. With leaner cuts you can actually taste the fish, which is a much more nuanced flavor that is never quite the same.

  • Rasilio||

    Salmon candy is very good and some smoked salmon is excellent but in general I agree with you Salmon is not particluarly appetizing.

    Not even raw salmon laid over a ball of rice with a dab of wasabi (replace that salmon with Bluefin tuna however and it may just be the most delicious thing ever)

  • sarcasmic||

    Don't forget the pickled ginger!

  • Ted S.||

    That wasn't salmon, that was Salmiakki.

  • RBS||

    Raw salmon is delicious but cooked salmon is almost always terrible.

  • Enough About Palin||

    Not the way I grill it. Yum!

  • RBS||

    That's why I said almost always, some people cook excellent salmon. And yes, smoked salmon is wonderful.

  • Tman||

    Easiest way to cook Salmon is en Papillote. You can add all kinds of cool herbs and flavors when you pack the paper, and you get a great layer of juice to go with the fish. I nice thick Salmon steak cooked en papillote is light flaky and bursting with flavor.


    http://www.cookinglight.com/co.....000070915/

  • ||

    I like to cedar grill my salmon with a brown sugar glaze. Leave it very pink in the middle, serve with a side of ravioli (blasphemy, I know) and you have a great meal.

  • JW||

    Aside from sashimi, I can usually only eat cooked salmon if it's been grilled. Too strong of a flavor otherwise.

  • ||

    I don't get this. Salmon is probably the most boring fish. It's really the chicken of the sea.

  • SugarFree||

    I can eat certain cooked preparations of salmon, but smoked salmon is the peak of salmon's culinary utility.

    What I can't abide is cooked tuna. Why would anyone do that to a noble piece of bluefin or ahi? It's like taking a sharpie to a Rembrandt.

  • RBS||

    A few years ago a caught my first tuna. Later, while I was showering, my aunt decided to boil my entire fish to make tuna salad.

  • SugarFree||

    NOOOOOOOO!

  • ||

    Oh my god. Did you disown her?

  • Rasilio||

    Disown, I was thinking more along the lines of dismember.

  • RBS||

    Yeah, I was pissed. I mean she didn't even bother to leave at least a little raw meat for me. And we had plenty of canned tuna.

  • JW||

    "What's this new, delicious meat? And where is Aunt Betty?"

  • Christina||

    I once ate some tuna my bother caught and smoked the next day. It was amazing.

  • Christina||

    *brother

  • ||

    Same thing, really.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    Smoked salmon sushi is good, especially for people who can't handle the idea of eating raw fish.

  • Rights-Minimalist Autocrat||

    especially for people who can't handle the idea of eating raw fish

    They have a technical term: pansies.

  • Brandybuck||

    Most cooked salmon is overcooked. Cooked right is delicious.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    Fish is always disgusting.

  • ||

    I'm sorry that you're a culinary train wreck. It must be hard for you.

  • nicole||

    More for the rest of us.

  • RBS||

    I have lived on the coast my entire life and cannot even begin to understand such a statement.

  • ||

    I like the way you think, nicole. He'd probably hate uni anyway.

  • ||

    Uni: also spectacular (when good), but takes a while to get used to.

  • Christina||

    Remember that old anti-drug ad where a bunch of teenagers are sitting in a circle in a garage or something and a guy lights a joint and passes it on, and no one smokes it. Then when it comes back around to him he just shrugs and puts it away.

    My husband and I like to joke that a real pothead would have shrugged and said, "more for me, dude," before smoking it all. That has become our catchphrase for when some good consumable is rejected by someone.

  • SKR||

    that's pretty much the response a user of any drug would have in that situation. I laugh everytime Mel Brooks' King Louie character says as much in History of the World part 1. peer pressure my ass.

  • SugarFree||

    I'm not trying to change your mind, but I felt the same way until sushi. Sushi brought me around.

  • Jordan||

    Fish is good. Raw protein of any kind is disgusting.

  • ||

    You are a horrible, terrible person. Raw protein is the greatest thing ever. I think I'll make some steak tartare this weekend in your honor.

  • sarcasmic||

    I guess that answers the spit or swallow question.

  • ||

    Spitting is so disrespectful and uncaring. Of course not.

  • Zeb||

    Where you you get horse meat?

  • ||

    Dee: All right, where'd you get the human meat from, Frank?

    Frank: I got a guy.

    Dee: You got a guy?

    Charlie: Uh, you got a human meat guy?

    Frank: I got a guy for everything, Charlie.

  • SugarFree||

    Look for a French butcher.

  • Zeb||

    Or Quebecois. I had horse once, in Belgium. It's really quite good.

  • ||

    Skip the raw egg and top with a strong aged cheese.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Steamed lemon dill salmon is pretty good, and it only takes a few minutes to make.

  • sarcasmic||

    I like cured salmon with dill. Only takes three days to make.

  • tarran||

    It's safe to say that when Barack Obama says "Trust me, I will hold off from doing X" what's actually going to happen is that he will *do* X, and few will call him on it.

  • JW||

    Pretty much this. It's his tell.

    "Let me be clear...I'm going to do the exact opposite of what I'm telling you right now. Not a little bit, not only half-way, but 180 fucking degrees completely opposite. And I'll do this knowing that you'll eat all this shit up, report it verbatim, and ask for more."

  • ||

    I loathe the taste of salmon

    Lewis and Clark did not like it either...and instead of trading for with Indians along the Columbia river chose to eat their horses instead.

  • ||

    Honestly, there hsould be some sort of legal recourse for companies if the FDA fails to approve their product within a certain time frame, without providing a valid scientific justification for doing so.

    The President shouldn't have a blanket authority to effectively impose bans on new products just by freezing applications in process at a regulatory agency. That's not how the law is supposed to work. The constitution does not grant the president dictatorial authority to ban products he doesn't personally approve of.

  • nicole||

    Well, the constitution doesn't exactly authorize the existence of the FDA, either.

  • Christina||

    Doncha know popular fiction (The Jungle in this case) is more authoritative than The Constitution?

  • ||

    True, but even within the context of New Deal era interpretations of the commerce clause, I don't see how it gives the president executive authority to ban products.
    You can't just freeze an approval process arbitrarily in order to stop a product from going to market, as far as I know. The president can't just ORDER the FDA to find the way he wants them to, so he shouldn't be able to just order them to "freeze" an application to achieve the same effect.

  • Rasilio||

    Officially, no he can't however as a practical matter the FDA is an executive branch agency and it's director serves at the discretion of the President so he can effectively say "do what I say or you're fired" and there isn't too much anyone can do about it.

  • ||

    Well, there is something. You can file a lawsuit challanging it, and see what the courts have to say.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    Problems with that strategy are:

    1.) Lawsuits are expensive, especially for a company that as yet has not marketed a product, therefore has no cash flow.

    2.) The media will report the story as "Secretive Biotech Corporation Sues to Force Consumers to Eat Frankenfish". It could turn out to be a PR disaster.

    3.) The FDA is still the gate keeper to approving products, and if AquaBounty wants to develop and market other products, it doesn't help to have a contentious history with the FDA.

    It really is just a new variant on Fuck You That's Why.

  • Christina||

    [I]f the FDA fails to approve their product within a certain time frame, without providing a valid scientific justification for doing so.

    I'm sure the justification is never science and is always political. Witness the political clusterfuck around the idea of FDA allowing hormonal BC to be sold OTC.

  • ||

    There's always politically motivated groups lobbying for the FDA to do what they want, and in both cases they attempt to find a scientific rational for it.

    But the difference here is that the FDA's own internal review process has already found those arguments to be scientifically unfounded. In this case we have the executive branch arbitrarily intervening in a regulatory process to halt an approval, without challenging the FDA's internal findings.

    With birth control, the FDA actually FOUND a scientific rationale for requiring a prescription. The White House did not use executive authority to order it for no apparent reason.

  • MOFO.||

    "It's ridiculous that it's taken this long for the regulatory process to reach the conclusion that the product is safe for consumers and the environment. Now we will get to see if the president will keep his promise that his adminisration will "make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology."

    Its ridiculous that the president wealds that much power, that the decision to approve or deny a product rests with him

  • Rasilio||

    Well in reality it is entirely likely that Obama himself has never even heard of this company or this product but rather it was some low level functionary in either the white house or campaign staff who "encouraged" the FDA to hold off on making an announcement.

    Which frankly speaking is even scarier

  • RBS||

    I don't know if you watch Parks and Rec but this reminds of the Congressman that Ben Wyatt worked for. Basically the guy is really engaging and everyone thinks he wonderful when he's out campaigning but when he gets to the office he just sits there, staring into space until his next event.

  • ||

    RTFA

    But within days of the expected public release of the EA [environmental assessment] this spring, the application was frozen. The delay, sources within the government say, came after meetings with the White House, which was debating the political implications of approving the GM salmon, a move likely to infuriate a portion of its base.

    The "White House" intervened. Not some low-level functionary. It's entirely probably that the decision came from Obama himself.

  • Rasilio||

    That says "Meetings with the White House", which may or may not include the President himself.

    It is at least equally likely that those meetings were lead by some Presidential Secretary or Advisor as it is that they included the President himself.

    In fact my bet is that the President was not part of those meetings and that their outcome was summarized into a single bullet point in a status report.

  • ||

    Well the President pulled the strings on the Keystone XL pileline, so it's not like he's demonstrated any desire to keep his hands clean when it comes to throwing bones to progressive environmentalist factions. He's been far nicer to them than drug-legalization and gay marriage groups.
    Remember he wanted to appoint Robert F Kennedy to head the EPA.
    http://voices.washingtonpost.c.....-head.html

  • mr simple||

    I loathe the taste of salmon

    Bad news for Mrs. Bailey.

  • SKR||

    Mrs. Simple needs to see a doctor.

  • sarcasmic||

    Genetically modified food, like rifles with pistol grips, is scary!

    Must ban scary things!

    They're scary!

    One of my favorite preparations is to smother a filet of salmon with sweet Thai chili sauce and bake it until a hair over rare. Yum!

  • ||

    One way I bake salmon is with a sprinkling of Worchestershire, some Old Bay seasoning, some Andy Roo's BBQ Shrimp seasoning (or, really, any of their seasoning at all), and a bit of Crab Boil seasoning from a huge jar I bought in New Orleans to give it some bite.

  • RBS||

    That sounds pretty good, I'm going to have to remember this.

  • ||

    Just bought online a gallon of Andy Roo's BBQ Grill Seasoning. Bought a medium sized container of it when I was last in New Orleans and ripped through the fucker in about a month.

    The marginal cost between a medium sized order and a huge gallon order is surprisingly minimal.

  • MamaLiberty||

    You hate salmon, Ronald? What a pity. Have you actually had any fresh salmon, or just canned? Bring one to my house and I promise to make you a meal you'll never forget. And I don't care what kind of salmon it is... just as long as it's fresh. :)

  • R C Dean||

    Now we will get to see if the president will keep his promise

    By having this scientific finding indefinitely delayed for political reasons, hasn't he already broken his promise?

  • Enough About Palin||

    At least he closed Gitmo.

  • ||

    Amusing anecdote: There are a couple of tuna boats working out of the harbor near me. If you get to the dock before they unload their catch they'll sell you fish by the pound on the spot. One afternoon I caught them just after they'd docked. There was this yuppie couple standing around looking at the boats and they seemed fairly surprised when I called to one of the deckhands and asked for 5 pounds. He yelled down into the hold and soon thereafter a whole fish was tossed up to him. He laid it on a table and set to work with a knife, and the couple asked me what was going on. I told them I was buying some of the best tuna anywhere for dinner. When the deckhand had my fish wrapped up I tossed a $20 down to him and he threw the fish up to me. As I walked off the husband asked the wife if they should get some as well and I heard her exclaim, "I would NEVER eat fish that wasn't fresh!"

  • Zeb||

    What do you suppose she thought "fresh" means?

  • Enough About Palin||

    Why ponder stupid?

  • Zeb||

    I don't know. Why do anything?

  • bmp1701||

    "prepared in a restaurant"

  • ||

    I'd guess she thought "fresh" means it comes in on a piece of styrofoam, wrapped in plastic, after sitting on ice for a week in the back of a truck. Ridiculous. Hell, I ate half a pound of that fish before I even got it home.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    What do you suppose she thought "fresh" means?

    Freshly inspected and approved by a USDA inspector. Otherwise how would you really know it was fresh?

  • ||

    I went on a fishing trip out of Neah Bay for halibut, and got one plus some ling cod. When we got back that night we of course immediately cooked it up on the grill, and good god damn it was amazing. The freshest fish I ever had, though, was some mackerel caught while sailing in Maine and immediately cooked in butter and eaten; I swear it hadn't been out of the water for more than 10 minutes before we were eating it. So amazingly delicious.

  • ||

    A buddy of mine went deep sea fishing and one of the other guys on the boat reeled in a blue fin tuna. He said the captain cut that thing open and they started eating it 10 minutes after hauling it on deck. He says it's ruined sushi for him though, because nothing has ever come close to tasting as good as that did.

  • ||

    He should make his own sushi from fresh caught fish. Fish, rice, dried seaweed -- not that hard.

  • R C Dean||

    Back when I was but a wee tad of a Dean, Papa Dean would take me and Big Bro Dean backpacking and trout fishing.

    Dinner was generally as many trout cooked over the campfire as you could eat, and it wasn't unusual for the little fishies to still be twitching when they hit the pan.

    Most excellent, in every possible way.

  • Ted S.||

    You went out on Neah Bay just for the halibut?

  • Sevo||

    "Is Obama Kowtowing"
    Yes.

  • Killazontherun||

    "Is Obama Kowtowing"

    Does a pope shit in the woods?

    Is a bear Catholic?

    Did Langston Hughs write clunky verse that alliterated 'jazz' with 'june'?

  • iggy||

    http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15433

    I believe that was Gwendolyn Brooks.

    That's my pedantic moment of the day. I'll be back tomorrow to explain the difference between 'effect' and 'affect.'

  • iggy||

    Shit. Now I realize that you're joking. I really should read comments better before responding.

    Pedanticman, out.

  • Killazontherun||

    S'alright. We die soon.

  • ||

    So Obama is again anyone being able to buy salmon at Costco for $3 a pound instead of $6, making healthy food affordable for people of lesser means?

    Tell me again how liberals love the poor.

  • Redmanfms||

    Tell me again how liberals love the poor.

    Fuck man, you got me.

    I'd purely love to see Spaces or Shriek explain this shit.

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