Alaska senator calls GM salmon ‘Frankenfish’

U.S. Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) is speaking out against genetically modified salmon.

In a press release on Wednesday, Begich called the potential approval of genetically modified salmon for human consumption “unprecedented, risky and a threat to the survival of wild species.”

“Let’s call this genetically engineered fish for what it is — Frankenfish,” he said.

Late last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration preliminarily determined that the genetically modified salmon developed by AquaBounty Technologies of Waltham, Mass., is “safe to eat.” In documents posted to the FDA website, FDA scientists said, “Food from AquAdvantage Salmon … is as safe as food from conventional Atlantic salmon, and there is a reasonably certainty of no harm from the consumption of food from this animal. [There is] no biologically relevant difference between food from [AquAdvantage Salmon] and conventional Atlantic salmon.”

The findings will be presented during a Veterinary Medicine Advisory Committee meeting in Rockville, Md., on 19 to 20 September. The FDA will also hold a public hearing on application and food-labeling requirements for AquAdvantage Salmon.

According to AquaBounty, the technology will allow Atlantic salmon to grow to market size of about 8 pounds in just 18 months, compared to the standard 36 months. AquAdvantage Salmon contains a gene from an ocean pout and a growth hormone from a chinook salmon.

Despite that AquaBounty and FDA scientists have been studying the characteristics, physiology and behavior of this fish for more than a decade, its potential approval is expected to draw a lot of opposition from politicians and environmentalists alike.

Begich, whose state is expected to catch 160 million salmon valued at USD 400 million in 2010, accused the FDA of considering approval of AquAdvantage Salmon behind closed doors, pointing out that the agency set aside only a few days of hearings for the public to digest and comment on its technical 180-page report.

“Alaska made the right decision 20 years ago when we banned farmed salmon and other finfish in our waters and focused instead on management practices that sustain and grow our wild salmon,” said Begich.

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