Salmon ‘chanted evening?
The one word that leaped out of President Obama’s State of the Union address to Congress wasn’t “optimism,” “business,” “teachers,” “economy” or “budget.”
To those who listened to the speech on National Public Radio, the memorable term was “salmon,” writ large in a word cloud NPR compiled from its listeners after Obama finished.
That kind of makes sense. Without the Punch-and-Judy theater of Republicans and Democrats popping up from their seats to cheer or boo, as they customarily do when they’re seated on opposing sides of the room for a presidential address, it was up to the Commander in Chief to deliver some chuckle-worthy lines.
Obama got his biggest laugh for this rather understated poke at overlapping federal bureaucracies:
“There are 12 different agencies that deal with exports. There are at least five different agencies that deal with housing policy. Then there’s my favorite example: the Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they’re in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them when they’re in saltwater. (Laughter.) I hear it gets even more complicated once they’re smoked. (Laughter and applause.)”
(No offense, Mr. President, but this was kind of an easy room if you got such a boffo response to this joke. Plenty of Facebook and Twitter posters wondered why you didn’t mention cream cheese and bagels.)
This being Washington, though, it didn’t end there.
As my clever colleague Susan Heavey notes, Obama’s joke raised the ire of consumer advocacy groups fighting what could be the first genetically modified animal for people to eat.
The Food and Drug Administration is currently considering whether to approve sales of a faster growing salmon made by Aqua Bounty Technologies Inc <ABTX.L>. The agency must evaluate the environmental effects of the GMO fish, and advocates say a decision could come within weeks. Critics say the company has not proven eating its “frankenfish” is safe, while the company has touted it as a way to bring cheaper, healthier food to more people.
The watchdog group Food & Water Watch faults the FDA’s approval process, and called on Obama to stop genetically engineered salmon from reaching consumers.
“So President Obama, while your joke was admittedly funny, it’s also all too true. Instead of making jokes, your administration needs to intervene before yet another convoluted ‘regulatory structure’ is added to our already overburdened food system and these largely untested GE fish are unleashed on an unsuspecting public, paving the way for other poorly regulated GE animals (pigs and cows are already in the works),” the group said in an open e-mail.
You know what they say about jokes — if you pick them apart, somewhere along the line they stop being funny.
Photo credits: REUTERS/stringer (A salmon jumps for food pellets at the Chilean Pacific port of Chacabuco, south of Santiago, September 16, 2003)
REUTERS/Phil McCarten (Smoked salmon Oscars at a preview of the 79th Academy Awards Governors Ball celebration in Los Angeles February 1, 2007)