Murkowski Continues Fight for Clear Labels on GE Salmon

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), a member of the Appropriations Committee, today announced a provision within the Agriculture Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2020 to prevent the introduction of genetically engineered (GE) salmon to the U.S. market until a consumer study is completed, determining the effectiveness of USDA’s recent labeling guidelines for bioengineered foods.

This provision Senator Murkowski secured follows the USDA publishing inadequate labeling guidelines for genetically engineered foods, including GE salmon. These guidelines didn’t require mandatory labeling of GE salmon, but instead allow producers to use QR codes or 1-800 numbers for more information. These insufficient guidelines led to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) decision to deactivate an import ban that prevented Genetically Engineered (GE) salmon from entering the U.S. market, circumventing language Senator Murkowski secured in 2015 directing the FDA to issue labeling rules for GE salmon.  

“I have long opposed any introduction of GE salmon into U.S. markets until clear labeling rules have been established to inform consumers that they are purchasing a genetically engineered salmon product. The Senate Appropriations Committee has agreed with me, year after year. FDA made a serious misstep by lifting the import ban on GE salmon in response to the untested, inadequate labeling guidelines approved by USDA earlier this year. It is absolutely essential that consumers be fully informed about what they are buying and feeding their families,” said Senator Murkowski. “I continue to strongly believe that a clear, text-based label is the high standard that American consumers deserve, and I have introduced stand-alone legislation to that effect. We owe it to American consumers to ensure that the standards put in place for labeling GE salmon are clear, effective, and understandable.”

The full Appropriations Committee passed the bill unanimously, sending it to the Senate floor for further consideration.

Senator Murkowski’s Provision:

  • “Sec. 763. No food containing genetically engineered salmon shall be permitted to be introduced, or delivered for introduction, into interstate commerce until the conclusion and transmittal to Congress of a consumer study of the efficacy of the Department of Agriculture's National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard for informing consumers of the genetically engineered content of salmon products, as set forth in 21 CFR 528.1092: Provided, That the study shall be performed by a commission constituted jointly by the United States Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration under the Federal Advisory Committee Act and shall commence not later than 180 days after the enactment of this Act.”

Background: In December 2015, Murkowski successfully inserted a provision in the omnibus appropriations bill that blocked the FDA from introducing GE salmon into the market until it publishes labeling guidelines so consumers are aware of what is contained in the product they are purchasing. One month later, in direct response to Senator Murkowski’s efforts, the FDA announced an import ban on GE salmon until labeling guidelines had been published.

This Congress, Senator Murkowski introduced the Genetically Engineered Salmon Labeling Act to ensure that any GE salmon products in the U.S. market are clearly labeled “genetically engineered” in the market name.

Senator Murkowski is chairman of the Interior-Environment Appropriations Subcommittee and chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.