Usually the Washington Legislature will steer clear – at least for a while – of a topic voters have settled in a recent initiative. That unwritten rule might ordinarily keep bills for labeling genetically modified food off the table for a while since voters narrowly nixed that idea in deciding against Initiative 522.
House Bill (HB) 2143, calling for labeling genetically engineered salmon, may be an exception to that rule. A U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ruling on an application for a fast-growing GMO salmon is expected later this year.
State Rep. Cary Condotta (R-East Wenatchee), a sponsor of HB 2143, says that since Washington state already requires labeling salmon as either “farmed” or “fresh,” it only makes sense to also label “transgenic” fish. The bill also prohibits raising GMO fish with fins in state waters.
The state’s aquaculture and biotech industries oppose HB 2143. In testimony this past Friday in Olympia, industry representatives charged that the bill was introduced to stigmatize genetic technology and generate fear.
They also said that the bill is unnecessary and claimed state law already prohibits transgenic fish in aquaculture. And they reminded a committee hearing on Friday that state voters have already spoken in their 51-49 percent rejection of I-522 last November.
Proponents said the state has to protect Washington’s native salmon population, and they claimed those fish stocks would be threatened by FDA approval of the first GMO animal approved for human consumption. FDA is reviewing comments on the issue and has not promised a delivery date for a decision. The application under consideration is from Aqua Bounty Technologies.
Testing is also now under way in Washington state and New York, both apple-growing regions, of two varieties of the non-browning Arctic Apple. The Arctic Apple is being developed by Okanagan Specialty Fruits, Inc., of British Columbia.
The Yakima-based Northwest Horticultural Council, representing the region’s fruit industry, wants USDA to reject the GMO apple to avoid marketing confusion for traditional and organic apples. The council says it has no concerns over food safety.
Another bill in Olympia could apply to the Arctic Apple. A USDA decision on the Arctic Apple could come this year.© Food Safety News