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US Senator Mark Begich. (Photo: YouTube/USSenatorMarkBegich)

Congress fights FDA approval of GE salmon

Click on the flag for more information about United States UNITED STATES
Tuesday, November 23, 2010, 02:50 (GMT + 9)

US Senator Mark Begich last week introduced legislation to stop the approval of genetically engineered (GE) fish by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). His bill follows hearings by the FDA on the “Frankenfish,” a product created by AquaBounty Technologies and now being reviewed by the FDA for human consumption.

If the FDA approves the GE fish, a second piece of legislation would require that the product be labeled as such. 

These bills accompany two bills sponsored by Representative Don Young; Begich’s new bill is co-sponsored by Senator Lisa Murkowski and Senator Patty Murray. The labeling bill is co-sponsored by Senators Murkowski and Murray plus Senator Ron Wyden.

“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,” Begich declared. 

“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,” he continued.

Begich has been a leader in the opposition to GE salmon, a development of AquaBounty Technologies that involves a hybrid Atlantic salmon altered with a Chinook salmon growth gene and an antifreeze gene from an eel that let it grow larger and faster than wild salmon. 

Last September, Begich and 10 other senators wrote to the FDA with doubts regarding the review process and the safety of a GE animal for human consumption; the FDA has not replied. 


“The FDA seems to be on its own timeline and hasn’t even responded to a letter signed by several lawmakers. We will move ahead without the agency, taking steps to ban Frankenfish and keep humans and our wild salmon safe,” Begich asserted.

The letter received the support of 52 consumer and environmental groups, commercial and recreational fisheries associations and food businesses and retailers, including the Alaska Marine Conservation Council, Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development, the Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Association and consumer rights group Food and Water Watch (FWW).

Analysis by a Duke University-led team that was published in this week’s Science determined that the review process used by the FDA to assess the safety of GE salmon does not consider the full effects of the fish's extensive production, reports EP Magazine.

Begich rebuked the editors of Time magazine for its current edition listing GE salmon as one of the 50 best inventions of 2010.

“Despite the supposed advantage of growing twice as fast as wild salmon, serious concerns remain about the environmental and human health impacts of these gene-spliced fish,” Begich wrote to the editor. 

“Want more salmon? Here’s a better idea: protect its natural habitat, maintain water quality and manage wild stocks for sustainability. That’s what Alaska has done for over 50 years and now returns of wild salmon are at historically high levels. And wild salmon taste a lot better than anything you’ll cook up in a laboratory,” he went on.

“Let’s leave “Frankenfish” on the operating table and not the dinner table,” Begich concluded.

Related articles:

- Production of GM salmon set to begin 

- Congress urges FDA to halt GE salmon approval process 

- Consumers Union worries GE salmon is unsafe 

By Natalia Real



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