Calif. rejects GE fish labeling bill

California State Assembly Appropriations Committee on Thursday rejected a bill that would have required that genetically engineered (GE) fish be labeled as such.

The Consumer Right to Know Act would have protected the public’s right to know how its food is produced, according to Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, who introduced the legislation. It is modeled after similar legislation passed in Alaska in 2005.

At issue is the GE fish developed by AquaBounty Technologies of Waltham, Mass. Its AquAdvantage Salmon allows Atlantic salmon to grow to market size of about 8 pounds in just 18 months, compared to the standard 36 months. At a congressional subcommittee hearing last month, Ronald Stotish, the company’s president and CEO, testified that the environmental risk associated with the production of genetically GE fish is “as low as can be reasonably expected.”

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.

AquAdvantage Salmon has drummed up a lot of resistance from consumer advocacy groups, environmental groups and wild fisheries advocates, especially in Alaska and throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Consumers Union’s Elisa Odabashian expressed disappointment in Thursday’s decision. 

“While the FDA decides whether to approve this questionable technology, California lost an important opportunity to act to protect consumers and their families by requiring the labeling of GE fish,” said Odabashian. “We will continue to push FDA to take a harder look at allowing GE fish into the food supply, and if they decide to do so, to label it as ‘genetically engineered.’ Consumers should have access to the information they deserve so that they can make informed choices in the marketplace about the food they eat.”


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