With AquaBounty’s AquaAdvantage genetically engineered (GE) salmon now under review by the White House and one step closer to approval, Alaska’s senators—concerned about the possible impacts the approval would have on their state’s wild salmon stocks—are taking actions to try to block it. One of the actions would block the salmon’s approval, while the other would effectively stop its commercialization should the fish be approved.
Senator Mark Begich (D-AK) yesterday filed a bill that would make it illegal to ship, transport, sell, or purchase GE salmon in interstate or foreign commerce. Meanwhile, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) offered an amendment to the 2012 Agriculture Appropriations bill that would prohibit the Food and Drug Administration from using funding to approve the application—a move that builds upon the similar Young-Woolsey amendment in the House, and would essentially block the approval process.
“We applaud Alaska’s Senators for stepping up to the plate to protect our nation’s natural resources while preserving jobs for their constituents,” said Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch. “Once again the FDA is looking out for the interests of the biotech industry over consumers and the environment. We hope other members of Congress resist the biotech industry’s lobbying and tell the FDA to do its job, not approve unwanted or untested science experiments.”
Begich’s bill, the Prevention of Escapement of Genetically Altered Salmon in the United States (PEGASUS) Act, would effectively ban the interstate commerce of all future genetically engineered marine fish. It would also make it illegal to possess such fish with the intent of shipping, transporting or selling it, and violations would be enforced and subject to penalties under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.
“The damaging impacts of other invasive species released into the environment are well known,” said Begich, who is also Chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and the Coast Guard, in a statement released yesterday. “While the manufacturer maintains its fish will be raised in closed rearing facilities, opportunities for escape exist through water circulation, handling accidents or unauthorized releases. Proponents publicly discussed opportunities for marketing GE salmon live during a Congressional staff briefing this year. While proponents maintain the fish will not be able to interbreed with wild stocks, it is reported a small fraction will not be sterile. Unintended genetic contamination from GE crops is well documented; it’s not reasonable to think it can’t happen here.”
Senator Murkowski, who also co-sponsored PEGASUS, is Chair of the Oceans Caucus and a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “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,” she said in a statement yesterday. “The tests have come under attack from scientific groups, including the FDA’s own Veterinary Medical Advisory Committee.”
“There is just too much at risk here,” continued Begich in the statement. “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. 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.”