As the Occupy Wall Street movement continues, we have no shortage of examples of powerful corporations using their influence to skew public policy and public spending decisions to favor their interests over the broader public interest.
Consider an issue that is close to home for those of us on the North Coast: genetically engineered salmon. As if to prove the point of the Occupy movement, federal agencies such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are working overtime to help a corporation, AquaBounty, secure approval for its highly controversial request to sell a proprietary GE fish as “salmon” in supermarkets and restaurants throughout the United States.
AquaBounty's GE fish creation crosses growth-hormone genes from an ocean pout with a Chinook salmon to dramatically increase the speed and size of the salmon's growth. The FDA has been considering the company's application for more than a decade. If approved, it would be the first GE animal permitted for sale for human consumption. Not surprisingly, this has sparked controversy and strong concerns from the scientific, environmental and consumer rights communities.
Despite these concerns, the USDA recently granted $500,000 to AquaBounty to do further research to perfect the engineered fish. This is on top of previous federal grants, now totaling nearly $3 million, to support the research and development of AquaBounty's GE salmon.
The latest grant comes despite the introduction of an amendment by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, to the 2012 Agriculture Appropriations bill that would prohibit the FDA from using its funding to approve the application for GE salmon, and a similar amendment by Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, and Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, that passed the House of Representatives earlier this year. Until this legislation gets approved by the full House and Senate and signed by the president, federal agencies can continue to dole out public money to AquaBounty, so that is what they have decided to do.