Undercurrent News: Genetically engineered salmon labeling bill introduced yet again in US

US senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, two Alaska Republicans, have once again introduced legislation that would require any genetically engineered salmon products sold in the US to be clearly labeled as such.

S. 282, the Genetically Engineered Salmon Labeling Act, also has support from Democratic senators Maria Cantwell, from the state of Washington, and Jeff Merkley, from Oregon.

Murkowski has tried multiple times to advance similar legislation without luck. A 2017 version of the bill that was backed by all four senators (S.1528) died in committee.

Like the earlier bills, the latest legislation threatens to slap Massachusetts-based AquaBounty Technologies, creator of a genetically engineered salmon that was approved for consumption by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2015. The company still faces an FDA import alert that prevents its fish or eggs from being brought into the US until labeling guidelines are issued.

But Sylvia Wulf, AquaBounty's new CEO, told Undercurrent News in an interview last month that she believes the issuance of those guidelines is "imminent" and also noted that her company was having discussions with potential partners outside of North America to bring AquAdvantage into other markets.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) in December issued proposed guidelines that would have genetically engineered foods called “bioengineered” and referred to their source as a “GMO” (genetically modified organism). But in a statement issued late last week, Murkowski’s office said the USDA’s approach is too weak in that it doesn’t require mandatory labeling and instead allows producers to use QR codes or 1-800 numbers.

“There’s a huge difference between genetically engineered salmon and the healthy, sustainably caught, wild Alaskan salmon," she said. "My legislation will ensure that consumers have all the facts, allowing them to make more informed decisions when they purchase salmon. We have the right to know what we’re eating.

"When you splice DNA from another animal and combine it with farmed salmon, you are essentially creating a new species and I have serious concerns with that. If we are going to allow this fabricated fish to be sold in stores, we must ensure there is at least clear labeling. Americans should not become test subjects for this new product without their full knowledge and consent.”

Cantwell has also long been an advocate for the labeling of genetically engineered salmon, calling it “frankenfish.” She said FDA's November 2015 decision to approve genetically engineered salmon was a “mistake” and articulated the need for clear product labeling, a press release from her office reminds.

The Alaska television station KTVA, meanwhile, reports that the wild salmon industry is squarely behind the latest legislative effort.

Jeremy Woodrow, communications director for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, is quoted as saying genetically engineered salmon make up a minuscule portion of the world salmon market, but measures like Murkowski’s are crucial to the branding of wild salmon.

“We have a longstanding position to oppose GMO consumption or sale in the US since before that was even a thing,” said Frances Leach, executive director of the United Fishermen of Alaska. “But since it is, we greatly support the labeling of them; people have a right to know what they’re eating.”

Source: Undercurrent News