FDA-approved GM salmon sparks health and religious debate — are GMOs kosher?

What is the relationship between kosher food and health?

According to Natural Food Certifiers (NFC) founder and director Rabbi Reuven Flamer, “Kashrus has nothing to do with health, at least not physical health. If meat went bad you shouldn’t eat it because it’s not healthy, not because it’s not kosher. It’s two different realms.”

Launched in 1997, NFC’s first certification, Apple K, was based on the principle that “If it’s kosher, it’s good for the soul; if it’s naturally healthy it’s good for the body, and each should have the other,” the website says. “Rejecting products that contain GMOs for kosher certification is a logical addition to our kosher supervision.”[1]

Flamer says the reasoning is simple: “While according to the strict letter of kosher food law, a GMO food ingredient is not prohibited, it certainly is not natural… There is a Torah based law to ‘guard your health’…. Recent studies show that GMOs may cause various kinds of health problems from digestive disturbances to food allergies, and that GMOs require more herbicides.”[1]

But what about genetically engineered salmon? This part-eel, part-salmon transgenic creature — expected to hit supermarket shelves next fall — will be the first genetically modified animal intended for human consumption. There’s confusion among kosher eaters, however, on whether or not this new breed of salmon can be considered kosher.

The Orthodox Union (OU) sought to clarify this by saying that GM salmon, due to its fins and scales, will still be kosher. According to the OU, having fins and scales is what determines a fish kosher according to Jewish law. Flamer, however, holds a different opinion on the matter. As reported by Forward.com, he views genetically manipulated salmon as an attempt to “improve a God-created perfect ecosystem.”[1]

Without a GMO label, a kosher label may prove to be even more complicated. It’s for this reason that Flamer’s initiative to trace GMOs and prevent its kosher certification is a revolutionary one.

Think about it: Will other rabbis really put a seal of approval on this transgenic creature just because it appears to be salmon? How about you? Would this receive your seal of approval?


[1] Forward.com

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