Kodiak Daily Mirror - Alaska s U S senators begin new push against genetically engineered fish
Alaska's U.S. senators begin new push against genetically engineered fish
by James Brooks / editor@kodiakdailymirror.com
Oct 18, 2011 | 24 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
KODIAK — Alaska’s two U.S. senators are beginning a new effort to fight the sale of genetically engineered fish, called “Frankenfish” by detractors.

On Monday, Sen. Lisa Murkowski filed an amendment to this year’s U.S. Department of Agriculture appropriation to prohibit the Food and Drug Administration from spending money to approve the fish for sale. Simultaneously, Sen. Mark Begich introduced a bill that prohibits the sale, transportation or purchase of genetically engineered fish across state lines or international borders.

“There is just too much at risk here. The public has expressed serious concerns about the introduction of Frankenfish into the nation’s food supply including potential threats to the environment and public health, and economic impacts on producers of sustainable wild salmon,” Begich said in a statement. “There are concerns about the transparency of the FDA’s review process and whether the consumer’s ‘right to know’ is being ignored. Some, frankly, just aren’t comfortable with the idea the government thinks it can improve on nature by genetically altering Alaska wild salmon.”

“The Frankenfish issue still has far more questions than answers, starting with the FDA’s process for approving an animal product intended for human consumption is considered by some to be insufficient. The tests have come under attack from scientific groups, including the FDA’s own Veterinary Medical Advisory Committee,” Murkowski said in the same statement. “More alarming is the fact that data analyzed by the FDA looked only at salmon grown at a Canada facility when these Frankenfish will be produced at a Panama facility. In addition, the FDA has not taken into account the full economic impacts that the approval of engineered fish will have — especially for a state with robust fisheries like Alaska.”

The fish at issue is a modified Atlantic salmon called the AquAdvantage, created by AquaBounty Technologies. The fish includes a king salmon gene that allows the fish to create a growth hormone. Normally, salmon do not create the growth hormone in cold weather, but a gene from the ocean pout, another type of fish, lets the modified salmon to create the hormone year-round. This allows the fish to grow to market size in 16 to 18 months, instead of three years, the company said.

AquaBounty plans to grow the eggs for the modified salmon in Canada’s Prince Edward Island, then transport them to a fish farm in Panama.

Opposition to the fish is based on fears that if released into the wild, the fish could breed with natural stocks.

AquaBounty has said its fish will be sterile, and in late September the FDA awarded AquaBounty a $494,000 grant to develop a genetic sterilization process.

If approved by the FDA, the AquAdvantage would be the first genetically modified animal approved for food. The “Enviropig,” a modified pig that produces less waste, also is under consideration for approval under a different process.

The statement released by Begich and Murkowski also says that a genetically engineered salmon could confuse buyers and hurt the reputation of wild Alaska salmon.

The U.S. House of Representatives has already passed an amendment that would bar the FDA from using funds to approve the AquAdvantage salmon. That amendment, co-sponsored by Rep. Don Young, is part of a USDA funding bill tied up in the Senate.

Contact Mirror editor James Brooks at editor@kodiakdailymirror.com.
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