AquaBounty CEO Ronald Stotish. (Photo Credit: AquaBounty Technologies)
AquaBounty CEO 'disappointed' by another setback
Friday, June 28, 2013, 23:50 (GMT + 9)
The biotechnology company AquaBounty CEO says he is “disappointed” by the recent Senate Appropriations Committee’s adoption of the amendment sponsored by Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, which represents another obstacle to the approval of the firm’s genetically modified (GM) salmon.
If approved, the fish, which grows twice as fast as wild salmon, would be the first GM animal introduced to the human food supply.
The amendment requiring mandatory labelling of GM salmon makes points against this fish citing consumer concern, the fact that escaped GM fish could breed with wild fish, flaws in the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) using a drug approval process for a product for human consumption, the threat “that all these concerns and damaging possibilities pose on the national and international salmon industry” and that GM fish will not bring jobs to the US.
“We do not yet know the relevance, significance, or consequence of the action in the overall budget process or certainly in the larger context of US food labelling policy,” AquaBounty CEO Ronald Stotish, PhD, told FIS.
“The amendment appears to be an attempt to usurp legal authority for food labelling from the FDA where it has resided historically. More importantly, it appears to be an attempt to utilize labelling as a weapon for protection of economic interest,” he continued.
Stotish insists that the FDA has found AquAdvantage salmon safe and that Senator Murkowski even acknowledged this in her comments from the floor, yet she continues to refer to it as “Frankenfish.”
The senator is also aware that these fish are all female, sterile and will be raised only in land based contained facilities in Panama, yet she claims the fish represents an environmental threat to wild salmon stocks, Stotish said. When discussing this point, Senator Murkowski pointed to lab experiments showing that GM can actually breed with natural salmon.
Regardless, AquaBounty refers to independent research demonstrating that GM salmon “do not represent any increased threat to the environment, and we have communicated this to the Alaskan delegation on multiple occasions,” Stotish stated, because it is "biologically impossible" for North Atlantic Salmon to mate with Pacific salmon.
He believes that what the Alaskan delegation really fears is economic competition with their salmon industry -- and that this is the real reason they oppose GM salmon. But Stotish claims that Alaskan salmon is a branded product that is priced and distributed through a distinct channel, meaning that AquaBounty’s salmon will represent no additional threat to that market.
Further, while opponents are arguing for the labelling of the GM fish if it is approved, AquaBounty insists it is not necessary, as the FDA legally cannot label fish grown AquAdvantage salmon eggs -or any other food- based on the process used to create it because it is not compositionally different. Instead, if AquaBounty had created a more healthy fish, with additional Omega-3 fatty acids, the fish would have to be labelled because the food being eaten would be different.
The Alaskan Representative Don Young (R-AK) has summed up the Alaskan view on AquaBounty by stating: “If I can keep this up long enough, I can break that company and I admit that’s what I’m trying to do.”
“Such actions are reprehensible in a free market economy in a society that prides itself on science based regulation,” Stotish concluded.
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By Natalia Real