Alaska Senators Rally Over Thirty Members of Congress to Oppose Frankenfish

Cite Health and Environmental Hazards, Lack of Labeling

WASHINGTON, DC – With the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considering proceeding toward approval of Genetically Engineered (GE) salmon, or “Frankenfish,” for human consumption, U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich voiced serious objections to the review process and expressed alarm at a long list of hazards potentially associated with bringing these fake fish to market.

The Alaska Senators organized a group of 12 Senators and 20 House members in a letter sent Thursday to FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg opposing the FDA’s Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) on a proposal by AquaBounty Technologies to bring GE Salmon to market.

Murkowski and Begich have a long history of opposing Frankenfish, including working together this past January to successfully extend the public comment period so that Alaskans would have more time to weigh in and halt its approval. The extended period comes to an end this Friday.

The Senators write in the letter:

“We believe this process has not been adequate to ensure this genetically engineered salmon is safe for our environment and our consumers.  The FDA must develop and implement a robust review process for GE salmon, and set an appropriate path forward for future food animal applications.  Finally, we urge the FDA to also develop clear and transparent labeling requirements should this GE Atlantic salmon or other GE food animal product be approved…”

“This finding is the next step toward approval of the first GE animal for human consumption, yet the FDA did not consider broad environmental and public health risks of commercial GE fish production in their assessment. Therefore, a more robust Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) should be completed in consultation with the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration.”

The Senators cite concerns that 5 percent of Aquabounty’s genetically modified eggs may not be sterile and could pose serious environmental and public health risks to both natural fish populations and humans if accidentally released into the natural fish population. Risks include greater proliferation of Frankenfish, waste, pollutants, spreading of infectious diseases, and consumer exposure to pathogens or antimicrobial drug resistance

The letters also express concern with the precedent the ruling could set, as companies will likely seek FDA approval for other genetically engineered fish such as tilapia and trout, as well as its application for other animals.

Earlier this week, Begich and Murkowski co-sponsored the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act. The bill would require clear labels for genetically engineered whole foods and processed foods, including fish and seafood. The measure would direct the FDA to write new labeling standards that are consistent with U.S. labeling standards and international standards.

Additional signers to the Senate letter were Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Jon Tester (D-MT), Patty Murray (D-WA), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Bernard Sanders (I-VT) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR).

House signers included Don Young (R-AK-01), Sam Farr (D-CA-20), Mike Thompson (D-CA-05), Peter DeFazio (D-OR-04), Walter B. Jones, Jr. (R-NC-03), Louise Slaughter (D-NY-25), Jared Huffman (D-CA-02), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR-03), Jackie Speier (D-CA-14), George Miller (D-CA-11), Lois Capps (D-CA-24), Betty McCollum (D-MN-04), Rick Larsen (D-WA-02), Jared Polis (D-CO-02), Madeleine Bordallo (D-GU-01), Kurt Schrader (D-OR-05), James Moran (D-VA-08), Jim McDermott (D-WA-07), Ami Bera (D-CA-07) and Chellie Pingree (D-ME-01).

A signed copy of the Senate letter is attached.