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Costco dragging its feet on GE salmon

The FDA is in the final stages of approving the “AquaAdvantage” GE salmon

Community Alliance for Global Justice (CAGJ) is a member led, Seattle-based organization that challenges unjust food and trade policies through community education and direct action. In partnership with Friends of the Earth, CAGJ is demanding that Costco, headquartered in Issaquah, WA, commit to keeping genetically engineered (GE) salmon off their shelves. CAGJ hosted a rally on March 7th at the Seattle Costco to deliver over 50,000 signatures urging the retail chain to reject modified fish.

The Costco rally was part of Friends of the Earth’s nationwide Campaign for GE Free Seafood. Launched in March 2013, the campaign’s goal is to persuade grocers and restaurants around the country to agree not to sell modified seafood, even if its approved by the FDA. To date over 9,000 grocery stores, including Safeway and Kroger, have made this commitment by signing Friends of the Earth’s Pledge for GE Free Seafood. As the nation’s second largest retailer, Costco is one of the most notable holdouts. The goals of this rally were to persuade Costco management to sign Friends of the Earth’s Pledge for GE Free Seafood, and raise public awareness around Costco’s stance on modified fish and the risks associated with genetically engineered salmon.

The rally included included street theater with paper mache fish and a performance from the Movitas marching band, whose vibrant energy drew the attention of onlookers. CAGJ’s banner, reading “Tell Costco: Say NO to GE Salmon,” was seen by hundreds of Costco customers and passing motorists. One of the highlights of the event was a mini-rally where local speakers discussed the detrimental impacts FDA approved modified fish would have in the Pacific Northwest and beyond. Pete Knutson, a local salmon fisherman who runs the Loki Fish Co. with his family, spoke passionately about the effects GE salmon are likely to have on our ecosystem, culture and economy.

The FDA is in the final stages of negotiating the approval of the “AquaAdvantage” GE salmon, created by biotech company AquaBounty Technologies. The AquaAdvantage salmon combines DNA from two types of Atlantic salmon with a growth hormone taken from an ocean pout [an eel-like fish of the northwest Atlantic]. The result is a species of salmon that grows twice as fast as their natural counterparts and can breed year round. If approved, it would be the first commercially available modified meat in the United States and would likely open a floodgate of engineered fish into the marketplace. At least 35 species of GE fish are in development, with plans to engineer pigs, cows and chickens.

Independent researchers have concluded that GE salmon appear to be prone to disease and deformities, raising serious animal welfare issues and possible human health concerns from eating sick fish. They also pose numerous environmental risks. If GE salmon escape fish farms (which they are likely to), they could harm wild salmon populations by interbreeding, competing them for food and spreading disease. Researchers have concluded that sixty GE salmon could displace a population of 60,000 non-modified salmon in a span of 40 generations. This could have devastating impact on the global food supply.

Costco did not allow demonstrators onto their property and refused to accept petition signatures. In response, CAGJ plans to deliver the signatures directly to Costco headquarters in Issaquah. If you are interested in being involved with this campaign, please contact CAGJ’s Food Justice Project at

Jordan Beaudry, a CAGJ intern, has a pen in his pocket and a passion for social justice.


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