Last week, US Senators from Alaska, Mark Begich (D-AK) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), filed separate pieces of legislation to prevent the Obama Administration from fast-tracking approval of genetically engineered (GE) salmon.
The Senators co-sponsored each other’s bills hoping to prevent GE fish from being released into the environment.
"There is just too much at risk here. The public has expressed serious concerns about the introduction of Frankenfish into the nation’s food supply including potential threats to the environment and public health, and economic impacts on producers of sustainable wild salmon," says Senator Begich, Chair of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Oceans Atmosphere, Fisheries and the Coast Guard.
Both Senators worry about the economic impact on producers of sustainably produced wild salmon – of which Alaska is one of the world’s largest producers.
"Frankenfish could pose serious risks to wild populations of many fish, says Senator Murkowski, Chair of the Oceans Caucus and member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. "While these modified fish are supposed to be sterile, 5% of the fish could remain fertile, and escaped stock could breed with wild stocks, introducing hazardous mutations to a currently healthy and hygienic wild stock. What’s more, an estimated 100,000-farmed fish escape their pens every year."
Sen. Begich introduced the ‘Prevention of Escapement of Genetically Altered Salmon in the United States Act’ (PEGASUS) to ban interstate commerce of GE fish. Under this bill, it would be illegal to "ship, transport, offer for sale, sell, or purchase genetically altered salmon or other marine fish, or a product containing genetically altered salmon or other marine fish, in interstate or foreign commerce."
"There are concerns about the transparency of the FDA’s review process and whether the consumer’s ‘right to know’ is being ignored. Some, frankly, just aren’t comfortable with the idea the government thinks it can improve on nature by genetically altering Alaska wild salmon," says Sen. Begich. During a presentation to a Congressional panel earlier this year, proponents of GE Salmon outlined opportunities to market the fish live.
Sen. Murkowski filled an amendment to the 2012 Agriculture Appropriations bill that would prohibit the FDA from using funds to approve the application for GE fish (Frankenfish).