GE fish subject of U.S. congressional hearing
By Steven Hedlund, SeafoodSource editor
15 December, 2011
The environmental risk associated with the production of genetically engineered (GE) fish is “as low as can be reasonably expected,” Dr. Ronald Stotish, president and CEO of AquaBounty Technologies, testified at a congressional subcommittee hearing on Thursday.
Stotish — whose Waltham, Mass., company developed AquAdvantage Salmon, which allow Atlantic salmon to grow to market size of about 8 pounds in just 18 months, compared to the standard 36 months — was one of four individuals to testify at the hearing.
The hearing was scheduled to address the environmental risks surrounding GE fish, including the impact on wild fish stocks, fisheries and the marine ecosystem. U.S. Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska — chairman of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard and a staunch opponent of GE fish who has introduced legislation targeting GE fish — lead the hearing. U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine also participated and asked questions.
Stotish testified that production of AquAdvantage Salmon — the eggs would be produce in Canada and then delivered to Panama for grow-out to market size and processing — will involve “simultaneous, multiple and redundant” containment strategies to adequately mitigate the environmental risk. “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.”
Last September, 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 16 years since AquaBounty submitted its first GE fish study to the FDA.
Dr. George Leonard, aquaculture program director of Ocean Conservancy, journalist and author Paul Greenberg and Dr. John Epifanio of the Illinois natural History Survey also testified at the hearing.
“Given the potential far-reaching consequences of genetically engineered fish, it is appropriate for Congress to use the full force of both its legislative and oversight powers to tackle this issue,” said Leonard. “Given the shortcomings of existing laws and regulations … it is essential that Congress take legislative action to ensure that GE salmon and other GE fish are not approved unless and until the full suite of environmental risks are thoroughly understood.”
Added Leonard: “Congress should demand a far more inclusive and transparent approval process. Worst-case escapement and interbreeding scenarios for GE salmon could have major impacts across a wide group of stakeholders and industries. The ramifications for the public interest are of an entirely different scale and nature than those typical for drug approval.”
Click here to watch the hearing and read the testimonies, including Stotish’s 34-page testimony >
15 December, 2011