Alaskan Senators, Coastal Coalition Push to Extend Frankenfish Comment Period

Senators Join Colleagues Urging 60-Day Period Doubled for “Necessary and Appropriate” Review

WASHINGTON, DC – Alaska’s Senate delegation today reached out to the Food and Drug Administration, advocating that the federal agency extend the 60-day comment period on an Environmental Assessment (EA) of genetically engineered salmon an additional 60 days, given the holiday season timing of its announcement, the current Senate transition period and the economic importance of the issue to Alaska. Strengthening their case, they were joined by Senators from Oregon, Washington and Maryland in pushing for more time.

The letter was sent to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, and asks that the original 60-day public comment period be extended by an additional 60 days to allow more time for the public to review and respond to the FDA’s Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI).

In the letter (attached) the senators co-signed, they wrote:

“While the AquaBounty Technologies proposal has been under consideration for some 15 years, the surprise publication of the draft EA and FONSI on Dec. 26, 2012, came in the midst of the holiday season when the public was more concerned with family matters than reviewing a 144-page, highly-technical scientific document.

“Publication of the FDA’s findings also came just days before the new Congress was sworn in.  Many incoming members from affected states will be preoccupied with organizational issues during the next few months that will preclude them from giving adequate attention to a precedent-setting decision that could lead to approval of the first genetically engineered animal for human consumption.”

Public comment has been open since Dec. 26, 2012, on the EA, which found “no significant impact” from genetically engineered salmon on either the environment or human health. The report is one of the last steps in AquaBounty Technologies’ fight to receive approval for its genetically engineered salmon, a farm-raised fish that is designed to reach marketable size considerably faster than natural salmon through manipulation of its genes.

The senators wrap up their case to Commissioner Hamburg by writing:

“An extension of the public comment period regarding approval of the first genetically engineered animal for human consumption is necessary and appropriate.  A 60-day extension to afford better public review of this draft action is minimal when compared to lengthy review process already afforded this proposal.”

Senators Murkowski and Begich were joined by Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Patty Murray (D-WA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

The full text of the signed letter is attached. Members of the public can read and comment on the draft Environmental Assessment at https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2012/12/26/2012-31118/draft-environmental-assessment-and-preliminary-finding-of-no-significant-impact-concerning-a.

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