Legislation introduced to stop GM salmon


SeafoodSource staff

Published on
November 21, 2010

U.S. Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) on Thursday introduced legislation targeting genetically modified (GM) fish — one bill would prevent the U.S. Food and Drug Administration from approving GM fish and another bill would require the FDA to label GM fish as such if it’s approved.

The bills come two months after FDA scientists preliminary determined that the GM salmon developed by Waltham, Mass., biotechnology firm AquaBounty Technologies, called AquAdvantage Salmon, is safe for human consumption.

Immediately after the determination, Begich vowed to fight the approval of AquAdvantage Salmon, referring to it as "Frankenfish.” Finfish farming is prohibited in Alaska, which harvested more than 168 million wild salmon valued at USD 534 million in 2010.

The bill banning GM fish is co-sponsored by Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.), while the labeling bill is co-sponsored by Sens. Murkowski, Murray and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). Two similar bills have also been introduced in the U.S. House by Rep. Don Young (D-Alaska).

“Our main objective is to stop the FDA from ever approving this science project that will potentially harm wild Alaska salmon, while posing human and other environmental health risks,” said Begich. “But, at the very least, any type of genetically-engineered fish has to have a label. If the FDA decides this is safe for human consumption, it should be clear to the public what’s in and not in the package.”

Begich chided the FDA for failing to reply to a letter he and a number of senators addressed to the agency expressing concern over the potential approval of GM salmon. The letter was also signed by 52 consumer and environmental groups, fisheries associations, food businesses and retailers.

“The FDA seems to be on its own timeline,” said Begich. “Let’s leave ‘Frankenfish’ on the operating table and not the dinner table.”

After meeting in September, an FDA advisory committee determined that more research is necessary. AquAdvantage Salmon would be the first genetically altered food animal to be approved for human consumption in the United States.

AquaBounty’s technology allows Atlantic salmon to grow to market size 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. Click here to read a SeafoodSource interview with AquaBounty President and CEO Dr. Ron Stotish.

The potential approval of GM salmon has met a lot of resistance. Just this week, a study authored by Duke University researchers and published in the journal Science called the FDA’s assessment of GM salmon too narrow.

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