The US House of Representatives last week passed an amendment that blocks the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from approving genetically engineered (GE) salmon - the first genetically engineered animal intended for human consumption.
During full floor debate of the Fiscal Year 2012 Agriculture and FDA appropriations bill, members of the House passed an amendment offered by Reps. Don Young (R-AK) and Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) to prohibit use of FDA funds to approve any application for approval of genetically engineered salmon.
The full appropriations bill, The Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 2112), passed on Thursday by a 217-203 vote.
The Center for Food Safety (CFS) applauded passage of the amendment:
"We thank members of the House for stepping in to correct FDA's misguided decision to go ahead with this approval process which fails to take into account a plethora of economic, human health, environmental and animal welfare concerns," says Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of the Center for Food Safety. "Any decision to approve GE salmon would be a continuation of the Obama Administration's illogical biotech bailout at the expense of American jobs and our fishing economy."
The FDA currently approves GE animals through its new animal drug law, yet critics fault the process as failing to require adequate safety assessments and lacking transparency and public engagement. The decision to regulate GE animals as animal drugs was announced by FDA in 2009 in the form of a Guidance to Industry, a non-binding form of regulation.
"We need a robust regulatory system that assesses the full suite of economic, human health, environmental and animal welfare risks posed by GE animals and allows for full and open public participation," adds Colin O'Neil, Regulatory Policy Analyst for the Center for Food Safety.
In September 2010, more than 40 members of Congress sent letters requesting FDA halt the approval of the long-shelved AquaBounty transgenic salmon.
"The FDA's hastily completed approval process puts American consumers and the environment at risk. GE salmon could be devastating to fishing and coastal communities, our food source, and already depleted wild salmon populations. The FDA should put the interests and safety of American families and our ocean resources above special interests," Rep. DeFazio said in September.
In February, Senator Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Representative Don Young (R-Alaska) introduced complimentary legislation that would ban genetically engineered (GE) fish and require mandatory labeling if approved.
The two pieces of legislation were endorsed by 67 consumer, worker, religious and environmental groups, along with commercial, recreational and subsistence fisheries associations, and food businesses and retailers.
Those groups include the Center for Food Safety, Ocean Conservancy, Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development, the Alaska Trollers Association, Food and Water Watch, the National Cooperative Grocers Association, Trout Unlimited and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations among others.
Last fall, over 300 environmental, consumer, health, and animal welfare organizations, along with salmon and fishing groups and associations, food companies, chefs and restaurants signed joint letters to the FDA opposing the approval of AquaBounty's GE salmon. Additionally nearly 400,000 public comments were sent to FDA from citizens demanding the agency reject this application and require mandatory labeling of this transgenic salmon should it decide to approve it.