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Opposition continues to genetically-engineered fish

July 15th, 2011 | Alaska Newspapers Staff Print this article   Email this article  

Alaska's congressional delegation is keeping up its battle to keep genetically modified salmon off the market.

Senators Mark Begich, D-Alaska, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, joined six other senators on July 15 in signing a letter to the federal Food and Drug Administration, warning the agency not to dismiss the clear congressional opinion opposing approval of genetically modified salmon.

Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, was one of 15 members of the House who signed a similar letter to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, also on July 15.

The agency is considering an application by Aqua Bounty, Inc. to grow genetically-engineered salmon in Panama for importation into the United States, with plans to eventually grow the fish in the U.S.

The genetically-altered fish would grow faster than natural fish and there are serious concerns about the impact of escaped fish on wild salmon stocks, the suitability of such fish for human consumption, and the FDA's approval process for the fish, Begich and Murkowski said..

"The FDA process is not the right one to fully evaluate the impacts of this new product," Murkowski said. "The effects of unlabeled GE salmon in the market place could be devastating if consumers are confused about buying salmon.

"Even though we know that if it says Alaska, it is always going to wild, we have seen the markets respond to fear and confusion in the past. GE salmon could cause dramatic market impacts for wild salmon and this issue must at least be acknowledged, but FDA is completely ignoring it. I am prepared to do everything possible to prohibit funding for FDA approval of GE salmon in the Senate appropriations process," she said.

Begich said that the FDA "hasn't considered all of the potential negative impacts of genetically-altered fish and the strong opposition in Congress to approving something that could decimate wild salmon populations.

Recent scientific evidence shows that if genetically-modified salmon escape, they could successfully breed with wild stocks, potentially destroying the genetic adaptations that have allowed fish to thrive for millennia. Alaska wild salmon is abundant and sustainable. We don't need Frankenfish threatening our fish populations and the coastal communities that rely on them," Begich said.

The House letter signed by Young, and others, noted broad opposition to genetically engineered salmon, stemming from serious concerns regarding the review process being used by the FDA to review AquaBounty Technologies' application.

"At present the FDA does not have adequate means to assess the GE salmon as an animal intended for human consumption," the House letter said.

"Furthermore, the environmental assessment, compiled by AquaBounty and reviewed by the FDA, is inherently flawed as it failed to take into account the full range of environmental and socio-economical risks that the proliferation of GE fish pose to wild fish, commercial and recreational fishermen, and natural ecosystems.

"Rather than accept AquaBounty's conclusions, the FDA should undertake and complete a full environmental impact statement, including fully consulting with other federal agencies with responsibility for protecting ocean ecosystems and federally listed endangered species," the House members said.


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