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Genetically Modified Salmon Present a Number of Risks to Consumer Health and Environment

The New York Times (last month) and Washington Post (yesterday) published stories claiming that the FDA may soon allow for the sale of genetically modified salmon. Please see below for Food & Water Watch's take on the controversial practice.


Genetically Modified Salmon Present a Number of Risks to Consumer Health and Environment

Statement from Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director, Food & Water Watch

Washington, D.C. – As rumors swirl that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may allow the sale of genetically modified (GM) salmon to consumers, flaws in the review process surrounding this controversial disruption to the natural food chain are coming into focus. The FDA, which has been tasked with overseeing the public’s health, could approve the divisive science experiment as early as this fall — a decision that consumers strongly oppose. If approved, the salmon would represent the first genetically modified animal sold as food to unsuspecting consumers (currently, there are no labeling requirements in place to assist consumers in identifying and avoiding GM foods).

Unfortunately, many in the aquaculture industry seek to genetically engineer fish to speed up production of their product. In this case, the company lobbying the FDA for approval, AquaBounty Technologies, wants to combine salmon genes that control growth hormone with a gene from another fish, the ocean pout. The ocean pout gene would keep the growth hormone in production, effectively creating mutant salmon that grow at twice the normal rate.

Unfortunately, the FDA’s tests (historically used to determine if a non-GM food was safe) were created before GM products became a reality and are insufficient in determining the long-term, unforeseen consequences of the GM salmon in question. Put simply, these dated tests cannot determine the salmon’s full allergenicity and toxicity.

Schwarzenegger's MLPA Initiative: A Question of Bad Public Policy

Schwarzenegger's MLPA Initiative: A Question of Bad Public Policy

by Dan Bacher

Proponents of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative constantly gush in generic terms how the controversial process is "open, transparent and inclusive." Anybody who criticizes any aspect of the privately funded initiative is blasted for being against "ocean protection."

However, what many critics of the MLPA Initiative are actually opposed to is the parody of marine protection that Schwarzenegger's initiative has become. Many supporters of comprehensive ocean protection point out that the intent of the law, signed by Governor Gray Davis in 1999, has been continually violated under a privately funded process filled with numerous conflicts of interest and violations of state, federal and international laws.

The MLPA, as implemented on the South, Central, North Central and North Coasts of California, has completely taken oil drilling, water pollution, wave energy projects, corporate aquaculture, habitat destruction and all other human uses of the ocean off the table other than fishing and gathering. The law, as now implemented, would do nothing to stop an ecological catastrophe like the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico from devastating the California coast.

What type of marine protection is this?

Go Ahead-- Blame the Governor

One of my favorite lines is:

"And all this from a guy whose exceptional health status when he came to America was due to socialized medicine."

Apparently it was good enough for him and the citizens of his country, but he does not think it is good enough for Californians.

Go Ahead-- Blame the Governor
by Sheila Kuehl

A Lame Duck Governor Fabricates A Hoped-For Legacy

After more than six years of carving up and flushing what used to be referred to as the California Dream, the Governor has looked around at the wreckage and decided to float the story that it wasn't his doing. Many have obediently picked up the narrative and amplified it through the press and online. The story, as set out, for instance, in the New York Times, goes: the Governor is a real independent, neither a rabid left-wing Democrat nor a salivating Tea Partier and, therefore, no one loves him any more. Somehow, even as he stands in the rubble of California, Arnold has spun this to be a good thing, when, instead, he is an embodiment of what Texas gadfly Jim Hightower meant when he said, "There's nothing in the middle of the road but yellow stripes and dead armadillos."

NYT lauds the Gov. for tackling issues that have "bedeviled lawmakers for centuries". They conveniently skip, however, that announcing you are taking something on and getting anything done are two different things. He has, incredibly, managed to paint himself as the hapless victim of a stubborn legislature, when the opposite is true.

Tribes, Immigrants and Fishermen Unite Against MLPA

Assembly Speaker John Pérez Is on the Wrong Side of History
By Dan Bacher

In a historic protest on July 21, over 300 members of California Indian Tribes and their allies peacefully took control of a Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Blue Ribbon Task Force meeting in Fort Bragg to protest the violation of indigenous gathering and fishing rights under Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s controversial MLPA Initiative.

Over 60 immigrant workers from the sea urchin industry, many from indigenous communities in central and southern Mexico that were forced to come to the U.S. after they were driven off their land under NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement), marched side by side with members of the Yurok, Tolowa, Cahto, Kashia Pomo, Karuk, Hoopa Valley, Maidu, Hopi, Navajo and other tribes. Besides them were recreational anglers, commercial fishermen, seaweed harvesters, environmentalists and sea urchin divers and local political candidates.

Former Democratic Legislator Greenwashes Arnold’s Failed Ocean Policy

by Dan Bacher

In her guest opinion in the Eureka Times-Standard on June 29, former Democratic Assemblywoman Virginia Strom-Martin claimed that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s fast-track Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative is “the most open and transparent process” that she has ever been involved with.

However, a historic protest the same day by over 40 activists from the Yurok, Karuk, Hoopa Valley, Tolowa, Cahto and other tribes at the MLPA Science Advisory Team meeting in Eureka exposed Strom’s claim for the falsehood that it is. They demonstrated how the only thing “open” about the process is the open, racist disregard by MLPA officials for tribal gathering and fishing rights.

The MLPA team attempted to meet without allowing any public testimony, but Frankie Joe Myers, a member of the Coastal Justice Coalition and Yurok Tribe ceremonial leader, went to the microphone and demanded that the panel open up a public comment period. The panel was prevented from proceeding as they were interrupted by chants of “Keep your laws off my culture” and “M-L-P-A taking Tribal rights away.”

The MLPA officials conceded and members of North Coast Tribes and non-native supporters then provided powerful testimony demanding tribal representation on the science panel and exposing the hollowness of the claim that the process is “open and transparent.”

Delta Legislators, Environmental Justice Advocates Want Water Bond Repealed

by Dan Bacher

State Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis) and Assemblyman Bill Berryhill (R-Ceres), in response to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s announcement Tuesday that he will seek postponement of the $11.14 billion water bond, said the bond should be repealed, not re-scheduled.

“We welcome the Governor’s recognition that this bond does not have public support,” said Wolk and Berryhill in a joint statement. “The decision to pull the bond is an admission that our criticisms are correct, it is fiscally irresponsible and won’t help the Delta or create any more water.”

Wolk and Berryhill, who are co-chairs of the No on Proposition 18 Committee, stated they will not support legislation to move the current bond, now on the November 2 ballot, to another date.

“Rather than postpone it, we should repeal it and start over,” they said. “We cannot support simply delaying the same irresponsible plan to a future election.”

“This is a bad measure that won’t get any better with time,” they quipped. “It’s not fine wine. It’s just pork. We should start over next year with a new Legislature and Governor with an open and transparent public process.”

Conservation, environmental justice, fishing, tribal, labor and consumer groups support Wolk and Berryhill in their campaign to repeal the bond.

“Delaying the bond to 2012 will not eliminate its $22 billion impact on our State’s budget nor will it address the key points needed to sustain our water supply and our environment into the future,” said Debbie Davis, Policy Director
of the Environmental Justice Coalition for Water. ”Simply delaying the bond will hinder meaningful efforts to address California’s water crisis and distracts from the critical issue of providing clean drinking water to all Californians.”

Schwarzenegger's Drive to Privatize: from Fort Ross to the MLPA

Schwarzenegger's Drive to Privatize: from Fort Ross to the MLPA

by Dan Bacher

A visit by a Russian president and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative may at first not seem to have much in common, but both represent the Governor's relentless drive to privatize the state's public trust resources.

On June 22, Schwarzenegger welcomed Russian Federation President Dmitry Medvedev on a historic visit to California. During Medvedev's trip, Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg, head of the Renova Group of Companies, signed an agreement with Schwarzenegger to provide "substantial financial support" to keep Fort Ross State Historic Park open.

"Operating hours have been reduced at the park as a result of the state’s fiscal crisis," according to a news release from the Governor's Office. "The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) confirms that a charitable foundation created by Renova will provide financial support for Fort Ross. Renova’s foundation also plans to be involved in programs and activities at Fort Ross and intends to help make Fort Ross a center for cross-cultural exchange between Russia and California,"

“This agreement highlights the diverse history of California and the importance of the Russian culture to our state,” said Governor Schwarzenegger. “It is exciting to see Renova get involved in preserving this important park and create a public-private partnership to increase the services at Fort Ross at no cost to taxpayers.”

Renova is Russia's "leading private business group" that consists of asset management companies and direct and portfolio investment funds owning and managing assets in metals, mining, oil, machine building, mining , construction, development, energy, telecommunications, nanotechnologies, utilities and financial sector in Russia and abroad, according to the group's website,

The value of Renova Group assets as of January 2008 was $24.77 billion. Renova invests in Russia, Switzerland, Italy, South Africa, Ukraine, Atvia, Kinghzia, Mongolia and other countries. The Strategy of Renova Group is targeted "at the acquisition of assets in industries with a significant growth and consolidation potential."

If this "public-private partnership" goes the way of another privatized process, the MLPA Initiative, it is likely to be a complete disaster for Californians and our public trust resources.

A Thousand Words

The speech Obama should make!

"We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace - business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.
They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.
Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me and I welcome their hatred."
-President Franklin D. Roosevelt, October 31, 1936, Madison Square Garden Speech

Read the entire speech at

Who Let the Blue Dogs Out?

Published on Wednesday, April 21, 2010 by
Who Let the Blue Dogs Out?
by Norman Solomon

This is a grim story about the care and feeding of a Blue Dog.

Right now, Congresswoman Jane Harman is facing a serious primary challenge from a genuine progressive, Marcy Winograd, in Southern California's 36th congressional district.

Last Saturday afternoon, I sat on stage with both candidates and other panelists at a forum during the California Democratic Party convention in Los Angeles. The room was filled with several hundred progressive delegates.

Harman has been refusing to debate her opponent, but she couldn't stay away from the forum that afternoon. The entire convention would be voting the next day on whether to withhold endorsement of her for re-election.

The Death of Satire: RFK, Jr. Greenwashes Arnold’s War on Salmon

By Dan Bacher

Political satire in the United States will officially die tonight, April 14.

That’s when Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., the Chief Prosecuting Attorney for the Hudson Riverkeeper, will honor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the worst Governor for fish and the environment in California history, for his “environmental advocacy.”

Schwarzenegger will be honored at the “Riverkeeper’s Annual Fishermen’s Ball” at Pier Sixty on the Hudson River in New York City at a dinner fundraiser that will begin at 6:30 p.m. Spike Lee will also present an award to HBO during the event (

No late night comedian, inflammatory radio talk show host or other practitioner of political satire could come up with a scenario this bizarre no matter how they try. Reality, particularly in Schwarzenegger’s California, has become a self-parody, a living satirical comedy that knows no bounds.

Salmon Water Now! Video Covers The Salmon Summit

The Salmon Summit was a huge success and now you can see it in this new Salmon Water Now! video. This is the first of a few videos that will feature what happened at Fort Mason in San Francisco on April 1st. Future videos will show the panel discussions and media coverage. The video is only available on Vimeo:

Salmon Summit: Listen to Us! from Bruce Tokars on Vimeo.

The Salmon Summit: Listen to Us!

by Dan Bacher

Commercial salmon fishermen, recreational anglers and business owners who have been devastated by more than two years of no salmon fishing came from throughout California and Oregon on a beautiful spring day to participate in the Salmon Summit at Fort Mason in San Francisco on April 1. More than 500 men, women, and children showed up to demand that the state and federal governments take action to restore collapsing populations of salmon, according to Bruce Tokars of Salmon Water Now!

Obama Administration Uplists Delta Smelt from Threatened to Endangered

Agency Says In Spite Of Threat of Extinction, It’s Business As Usual!

by Dan Bacher

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced on April 2 that it is uplisting the Delta smelt, an indicator species found only in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, from “threatened” to “endangered” status.

However, in spite of the higher level of protected status, the agency appears to be saying that no further actions will be taken beyond those that are being done now.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced that, based on accumulated scientific data, the delta smelt warrants uplisting from ‘threatened’ to ‘endangered’ under the Endangered Species Act but that uplisting at this time is precluded by the need to address higher priority species first,” a news release from the service's Sacramento office stated.

What the heck? The fish is right on the abyss of extinction, but there are other “higher priority” species that need to be addressed first? What species are these? Westlands growers or Southern California water agency officials?