Senators file bill to mandate labeling requirements on genetically enhanced salmon

A bipartisan group of U.S. senators from the Pacific northwest filed a bill last week that would require any salmon produced through genetic engineering to be labeled clearly as such on its packaging.

The bill, filed last week, comes a month after the Department of Agriculture published its final rule requiring producers, importers and other entities to reveal information about bioengineered products and ingredients. However, critics panned the measure saying companies could use digital QR codes, which would require a smartphone to scan, or list a toll-free number to meet the obligation.

Among those critics is U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who along with cosponsors U.S. Sens. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Maria Cantwell (D-Washington), and Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) filed the Genetically Engineered Salmon Labeling Act on Wednesday, 30 January. 

The two-page bill says the legislation would ensure buyers can make “informed decisions” when buying salmon.

“We have the right to know what we’re eating,” Murkowski said in a statement. “When you splice DNA from another animal and combine it with farmed salmon, you are essentially creating a new species and I have serious concerns with that. If we are going to allow this fabricated fish to be sold in stores, we must ensure there is at least clear labeling. Americans should not become test subjects for this new product without their full knowledge and consent.”

Murkowski has been working to require clear labeling on genetically enhanced salmon for more than three years, going so far as blocking a candidate for Food and Drug Administration commissioner until her concerns were addressed. This also marks the third consecutive Congressional term in which she’s filed a bill mandating label requirements

Cantwell has been a partner with Murkowski on past attempts to require labeling. 

“Wild seafood from Washington and Alaska is simply more sustainable and more delicious,” the Washington senator said in a statement. “Mandatory labeling of genetically engineered salmon is necessary to protect consumers and promote environmental sustainability.”

One of the companies that would be affected by the new bill is AquaBounty Technologies. When the USDA released its labeling plan, the company executives hailed it. 

“Having more than doubled over the past 50 years, increasing global seafood consumption has placed significant stress on fish stocks, creating a need for new aquaculture methods,” said Nir Nimrodi, the chief business officer for Intrexon Corp., a majority owner parent company of AquaBounty. “This new labeling standard offers a clear path for the Company to realize the promise of its land-based aquaculture approach by advancing its innovative product toward expanded markets.” 


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