By Steven Hedlund
Published on Friday, May 25, 2012
The U.S. Senate on Thursday rejected an amendment by U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska that would have required genetically modified salmon to undergo the same scientific and economic analysis that all federal fisheries are required to go through before being approved to be sold in the marketplace.
After the 50-46 vote, Murkowski expressed disappointment but confidence that the tide against GM salmon — which she referred to as “frankenfish” and “test tube fish” — is turning, based on the closeness of the vote. She had tacked the amendment on to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reauthorization bill.
“What I am asking for with this amendment is, as the FDA proceeds in its process, that the agency [the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] that has oversight of our fisheries be allowed to participate in and weigh in on the environmental consequences that may come about as a results of [GM salmon] being released into the environment,” Murkowski said on the Senate floor on Thursday.
“While I am disappointed with today’s vote, I am heartened by the fact that a growing number of my colleagues are hearing my concerns and agree that ‘test tube fish’ are an unknown that need greater scrutiny,” said Murkowski in a press release following the vote. “I will continue making this case for our fisheries and our food safety.”
According to Murkowski and some of her colleagues, including Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska, the FDA is not looking at the environmental impact of GM salmon if the fish were to escape into the wild.
But, as Dr. Ronald Stotish, president and CEO of AquaBounty Technologies, testified to a congressional subcommittee in December, “These measures consist of producing triploid, all-female salmon that will be reared in a land-based aquaculture system itself possessed of redundant physical containment measures engineered and managed to confine the fish to the culture systems,” he said. “Furthermore, the facilities are located in geographical areas that are highly unfavorable to the survival, establishment and spread of AquAdvantage Salmon should there be an escape.”
Click here to read SeafoodSource blogger Steve Newman’s blog entry “GM salmon accusations off base,” posted on Wednesday.
In September 2010, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration scientists preliminary determined that AquAdvantage Salmon is safe for human consumption, but an FDA advisory committee subsequently determined that more research is needed. It’s been more than 15 years since AquaBounty submitted its first GE fish study to the FDA.
Developed by the Massachusetts company, AquAdvantage Salmon allow Atlantic salmon to grow to market size of about 8 pounds in just 18 months, compared to the standard 36 months.
Early this week, Kakha Bendukidze, AquaBounty’s largest shareholder, was the subject of a New York Times’ profile. He said the company can stay afloat a while longer, but he’s is skeptical that GM salmon will be approved in the United States in an election year, given the resistance from lawmakers and environmental and consumer groups.