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State House Introduces Anti-GE Salmon Resolution

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering Page and our Millions Against Monsanto Page.

The Alaska State Legislature is considering a house resolution "opposing AquaBounty's petition to produce genetically engineered salmon," and calling for it to be labeled as "genetically modified" if it goes to market.

The Food and Drug Administration released a Draft Environmental Assessment in December 2012 that found AquaBounty's GE Atlantic salmon posed no risk to the environment. The FDA has already ruled that the fish is safe for human consumption. It is taking public comments on its environmental assessment through Feb. 24. After that, the FDA is widely expected to approve AquaBounty's fish for U.S. markets.

The fast-growing Atlantic salmon has been genetically engineered to carry DNA coding from two other species: a Chinook (King) salmon, and an ocean pout (a slender fish that looks like but is not technically an eel). The Chinook DNA makes the GE fish grow bigger faster, and the ocean pout DNA makes it grow year-round.

Alaska has already passed a law requiring genetically engineered salmon sold in the state to be labeled as such. The current resolution supports a federal labeling law, something all three members of Alaska's congressional delegation have advocated for. Governor Sean Parnell has also written a letter to the FDA urging it to deny AquaBounty's application to sell its fish for human consumption in the U.S.

Federal Drug Administration regulations do allow for labeling of GE food in cases where the new food is materially different from its conventional form. But when that happens, the resulting label might not be what the public expects. An FDA white sheet on GE (also called genetically modified organism, or GMO) labeling gives one example. When oil derived from GE soy beans was found to have significantly higher levels of oleic acid than from conventionally grown soy beans, the FDA ruled that it had to be labeled. But the ingredient label on food packages doesn't say "oil from genetically engineered soybeans." Instead it carries a description of the material difference; the FDA requires that it carry the modifier "high oleic acid."

In the FDA's review documents of AquaBounty's application, the agency has so far described the GE Atlantic salmon as having no material difference from its conventionally farmed Atlantic salmon counterpart. 

Alaska House Representative Geran Tarr introduced HJR 5, the anti-GE salmon resolution, which currently has five other sponsors.

She said she introduced the bill out of concern for the economic impacts on the Alaska fishing industry, as well as what she called potential health effects on consumers.

"I see this as a threat to the Alaska fishing industry," Tarr said, "and the 70,000 jobs provided by the fishing industry, and revenues and associated benefits.

Tarr said she thinks putting AquaBounty's GE fish on the market could damage public perception of salmon in general, including Alaska salmon.
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