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Executive Director of the Centre for Food Safety Andrew Kimbrell. (Photo: YouTube/centerforfoodsafety/FIS)

Congress steps up opposition to GE salmon

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Thursday, July 21, 2011, 23:00 (GMT + 9)

Members of Congress last week sent letters to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as part of continued efforts to stop approval of a genetically engineered (GE) salmon under review.

“Members of Congress have once again raised the stakes in the GE salmon debate,” said Executive Director of the Centre for Food Safety Andrew Kimbrell. “FDA simply cannot continue to ignore the growing calls to stop this misguided approval.”

The two strongly worded letters were sponsored by Senator Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Representative Don Young (R-Alaska) and joined by 21 members of the lower chamber and the Senate.

FDA is reminded of an “ever-growing Congressional opposition” to the genetically modified (GM) fish and cite the Young-Woolsey amendment included in the house-passed Agriculture Appropriations Act of 2012, which would prohibit the FDA from using funds in the 2012 fiscal year to approve GE salmon. The passage of the amendment in the House last month, now awaiting debate in the Senate, has been celebrated by more than 90 environmental, consumer, health and animal welfare organisations, fishing groups and food companies.

In September 2010, more than 40 members of Congress sent letters urging FDA to halt the approval of AquaBounty’s transgenic salmon, the first GE animal intended for human consumption.

Opponents point out major environmental, health and economic concerns and question the FDA approval process. Critics say it excludes adequate safety assessments and lacks transparency and public engagement, which the Senate letter calls “extremely disconcerting,” as the approval of GE fish may be the first step toward approval of multiple other transgenic animals meant for human consumption.

Alaskan Senators worry consumers will respond with fear and confusion toward Alaskan salmon if FDA approves the GE fish, Dutch Harbor Fisherman reports.

“The FDA currently does not have adequate means to assess the GE salmon as an animal intended for human consumption. However, instead of delaying consideration until an appropriate federal process is developed, the FDA is currently proceeding with approval of the GE fish using the agency’s existing process designed to review new drugs meant for use on animals,” the House letter accuses.

The Environmental Assessment assembled by AquaBounty and FDA, the Representatives say, is “inherently flawed,” as it ignores the full range of environmental and socio-economic risks posed by GE fish to wild salmon, fishers and ecosystems. FDA should complete its own full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and consult with other agencies on how to protect ocean ecosystems and endangered species.

“Given the strong and ever-growing Congressional opposition to the approval of GE salmon in both chambers, we conclude that spending more time and additional taxpayer money on reviewing GE fish would not be in the public interest,” the House letter concludes.

Also last week, two pivotal new studies were published stressing the serious risks faced by wild salmon if GE fish escape. One study by Canadian researchers found that transgenic Atlantic salmon can transfer their genes to wild salmon if they escape captivity, which could jeopardize the species’ survival.

Related articles:

Transgenic salmon could infect wild populations: study 
Lower chamber votes to bar FDA from using funds to approve GE salmon 
Senators reintroduce legislation to ban GE salmon 

By Natalia Real


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