Senators Mark Begich (D-AK) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) reintroduced a bill Tuesday that would ban genetically engineered (GE) salmon, a fast-growing fish that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is likely to approve in the near future.  

nwsalmonletter-featured.jpgIf the FDA gives its stamp of approval, and many expect the agency will, the GE salmon would be the first genetically engineered food animal to be approved for human consumption.

Developed by Massachusetts-based AquaBounty Technologies, the modified fish, formally known as AquaAdvantage salmon, are essentially Atlantic salmon with an inserted growth gene from a Chinook salmon and an antifreeze gene from an ocean pout. They grow twice as fast as typical Atlantic salmon and require approximately 10 percent less feed to achieve the same weight.

Sens. Begich and Murkowski–a bipartisan team from a salmon-rich state–are fighting tooth-and-nail to keep the AquAdvantage off the market.

“Frankenfish threatens our wild stocks, their habitat, our food safety, and would bring economic harm to Alaska’s wild salmon fishermen,” said Begich Tuesday, adding that he believes the modified fish are “risky, unprecedented and unnecessary.”

Murkowski said it was “completely irresponsible” for the agency to consider the fish without first considering the impacts to Alaska’s wild salmon fisheries. “The FDA has not studied the environmental effects, let alone the economic impacts on the salmon and seafood markets that would result from approval,” she added.

Begich and Murkowski also introduced a bill that would require labeling of GE fish. According to Begich’s office, the bill to ban GE fish is co-sponsored by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and the bill requiring labeling, if GE fish are approved, is co-sponsored by Murray and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR).

Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, a group ardently opposed to GE food animals, lauded the senators for the legislation and accused officials of ignoring warnings from government scientists.

“When over 90 percent of the public does not want the FDA allowing GE meat into food supply and even experts at federal agencies like the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service state with regards to environmental concerns, ‘Maybe they [the FDA] should watch Jurassic Park,’ you have to wonder why the FDA continues moving toward approval. To approve GE salmon now would represent flagrant disregard for the concerns many people have raised about the health and safety of this product,” Hauter said in a statement.

AquaBounty insists the technology is safe. “We believe the economic and environmental benefits of our salmon will very effectively help to meet the demand for food from the growing world population,” said Ronald Stotish, president and CEO of the company, which is also developing advanced-hybrid trout and tilapia.

In September, 11 senators, mostly from the Pacific Northwest where wild salmon fishing is an important part of the economy, asked FDA to halt its consideration of the fish. In a letter, lawmakers blasted FDA’s approval process.

“One of the most serious concerns regarding AquaBounty’s application is the FDA has no adequate process to review a [genetically engineered] animal intended as a human food product,” the letter reads. “FDA is considering this [genetically engineered] fish through its process for reviewing a new drug to be used by animals, not for creation of a  new animal, especially one intended for human consumption. Clearly, this is inappropriate.”

The cohort of senators asked that FDA instead shift the approval process to the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition to focus on potential human health consequences.

  • Doc Mudd

    A fearmongers’ field day!
    Looks like AquaBounty has, indeed, developed a practical product of importance. How can you tell?
    “…11 senators, mostly from the Pacific Northwest where wild salmon fishing is an important part of the economy, asked FDA to halt its consideration of the fish…”
    Yep, this workable technology obviously will take some of the intense fishing pressure off the northwest’s salmon fishery. It will put safe affordable salmon ‘on every plate’, very much like the historic transformation of chicken from a special Sunday dinner treat to an affordable ‘chicken in every pot’.
    But, go, go! You go fearmongers, convince us the sky is falling!! Your irrational fears and devious political agendas could prevail this time, sadly.

  • Upgeya

    It’s a question of choice, Mr. Mudd – not “irrational fears and devious political agendas” It’s easy to make claims like this, especially when you don’t back them up with specifics.
    What we know is that when these GMO fish interbreed with the fish that have evolved over millions of years, that the resulting offspring will be forever genetically altered. Thus, the release of these GMO fish into the food chain, which is inevitable, will contaminate that food chain FOREVER. This will eliminate the choice of people who would like to avoid the kind of GMO food that has been demonstrated, in multiple studies, to be harmful to human health. And that’s playing GOD with our food supply. FOREVER, Mr. Mudd – FOREVER.

  • nojoeyno

    Independent (i.e. NO money from corporations with a vested interest) consistently show health problems linked to GMO plants and now we’re suppose to roll over and accept the same short sighted tinkering with animals? I don’t think so.

  • SteveKDC

    Doc Mudd is correct — every so-called consumer group out there, joined by their enviro brethren, is running true to form by opposing yet another new technology. The reprehensible part of this is that the opposition is built on misrepresentation and outright distortion of the facts of the technology. Opponents, including members of Congress, know little or nothing about the salmon technology, yet are now in protectionist mode for “wild caught” fish. The reality here is that with commercialization of inland aquaculture, the “wild caught” folks will be able to charge an even greater premium for their catches. The other factor ignored in this debate is the economic and environmental benefits that will ensue — domestic farms — inspected and certified by FDA — can be built near U.S. cities, meaning we don’t have to fly 747s full of Norwegian or Chilean salmon to the U.S. Jobs will be created, incomes increased, taxes paid, etc. But why let the facts get in the way of a good fundraising campaign?

  • Calm Truth

    I think the genetically engineered salmon is a wonderful thing. But why Atlantic salmon? Why not the more nutritious and better tasting Pacific salmon?

  • Jim

    The arguments from those against “GMO” are so tiresome. There is almost exclusively no rational basis for most of their opinions. First, you can’t lump in all GMO into on big “GMO pot”; every genome modification is different. . . therefore some will be harmful to th animal or environment, while some will be very useful and beneficial. Thi particular one (Aquavantage) has been shown to be beneficial and harmless. The animals are sterilized (so very few can breed IF they escape), and if they do breed their offspring exhibit decreased fitness (i.e. they won’t takeover nat. populations). Furthermore, do those of you claiming that it wold “contaminate” natural DNA know that animals’ genomes are very dynamic (i.e. they change all the time through natural mutation, rearrangement, etc.); why wold this change be any more harmful? Please do your homework and argue valid and logical reasons! If you’re against it, fine, but please get yourself informed so you can intelligently discuss the pros and cons.

  • tibercio

    If genetically modified foods — be it soy, corn or even this salmon — were really all about feeding the world with more nutritious food, as biotech companies assert (and of course not about their own corporate profits), then why does the biotech industry fight tooth and nail to make sure it remains illegal to even so much as label a food as such?
    The reasons Alaskan salmon are more nutritious than Atlantic is Atlantic salmon are farm raised, so they have lower amounts of the healthy omega-3 oils, and they are also contaminated with higher levels of mercury, thanks to coal-burning power plants. Nowhere in this issue have I read anything about the nutritional profile of the farmed biotech salmon. It’s like with organic vs chemically intensive agriculture — organic has higher nutrition levels, bite for bite, and obviously lower pesticide residues. What’s the nutrition comparison between the two kinds of fish? Anyone?
    Obviously, this has nothing to do with nutrition, or the consumer, and everything to do with corporate profits.

  • Jim

    Good to hear some logic Tibercio. I believe what you say is true; farm-raised fish are different in their nutritional profile (albeit marginally) . . I don’t know the specific #s, but I remember the omega oils profile was slightly less favorable. And clearly, concentrating anything into a small area for feeding/growth/etc. is less favorable than free-roam (for a lot of reasons including fish health, well-being, humane reasons, etc.). And I agree that one of the major reasons to bring this fish into existence is financial . . . that’s pretty much what drives every innovation. But I think the argument should be centered around two topics 1) is it harmful, and 2) is it useful. and I think the truthful answers to these questions make their approval imminent. Plainly put, the pros outweigh the cons.
    This isn’t a farm vs. wild raised debate; farm-raised exists and will continue to exist. This whould be a debate about the approval of this particular fish.

  • Mark

    Please watch “Food Inc.” if you did not yet.
    All GMO makers pursue one only idea to monopolize food, and controlling food, they control your freedom, leaving you with no choice what you can eat. On a ultimate level they could make you sick (physically, or mentally) when they want. That is an obvious alliance of government and big corporations (watch how Monsanto CEO incorporated themselves into FDA authorities). It is all for a blind over profit by any means. USA as a whole can feed entire world with no efforts already. It is simple fascist doctrine: if you control food chain you control (enslave) the world…
    Choices = Freedom
    making cheap monsters the price will be the only argument left of what is “rational” to concider as food, and what worth cultivation

  • Jim

    I’ve seen it, and it is a bit disturbing. Although it is a bit over he top too. Quite the conspiracy theorist aren’t you Mark. Sorry, but I refuse to believe the gov. is in cahoots with our food producers to monopolize food so they can keep us suppressed and (as you imply) sick.
    Yes, big money sources unfairly influence legislation . . get used to it, that’s the reality of how we live; just like how your employer influences your actions.
    Believe it or not, big food companies ar out to mke money by providing a benefit to the masses, and they are actually interested in feeding the world. You always have a choice of what you eat Mark. It makes me chuckle thinking back to that scene in Food Inc. where the mom says to her little girl, “why would we buy broccoli for $1.29/lb when we can get a lot more candy for the same price” . . . in the end it’s always your choice and responsibility of what you eat. It has nothing to do with big food companies persecuting you.
    The Aquavantage fish is an improvement to our less-than-desirable industrialized farmed-fish process. It’s not them trying to control you.

  • Michael Bulger

    Jim says, “You always have a choice of what you eat Mark. It makes me chuckle thinking back to that scene in Food Inc. where the mom says to her little girl, “why would we buy broccoli for $1.29/lb when we can get a lot more candy for the same price.”
    Why, Jim! This is exactly the type of thing that distorts the idea of “choice”. Why is it that candy costs less? Government policies regarding cheap inputs, corporate marketing, and corporate and governmental non-support for the production of fresh, healthy vegetables.
    I don’t jump on the conspiracy bandwagon, but before you criticize the idea that corporations and government have a profound effect on what food choices we make, you should take a step back and look at the whole situation. Broccoli and candy don’t come from grocery stores. There’s a huge system that puts them there.

  • Doc Mudd

    Geez, Bulger, Jim seems to display a pretty coherent grasp of capitalism and its ramifications in our food system. He is absolutely correct when he points out we all “have a choice” and a “responsibility” for what we eat.
    You seem a bit too eager to deflect the prospect of personal responsibility, to shift it onto “corporations and government”. You claim you “don’t jump on the conspiracy bandwagon”, but from where we’re standing we can see that is only because they have you running out front carrying water to the horses.
    If broccoli is overpriced, that is not the fault of governments or corporations. Nor is it their fault if consumers do not choose to purchase the overpriced broccoli – even when you and your bandwagon buddies insist it is the only acceptable choice.
    Consumers have choices, they make choices. They just don’t always make the choices you insist they should, and that is the extent of the problem.

  • piotr

    It is ”””’ to believe gov. or big agrobiz…
    You have to educate yourself; demand labeling and full info.. then we can make choices (if that will be true..). Grow your own food; that not bad idea??

  • Alvant

    I couldn’t agree more with the comments… If we allow GE (Genetically Engineered) food to be fed to us – it will be THE END of human kind. If drugs couldn’t kill us by now – the food will. I am in Regulatory Affairs business, I know what the Industry (biotech, pharma, food manufacturers) want, and what the Agency (the FDA) does to support it. They feed of each other for obvious reasons.
    Even non-religious people would agree with this: God has designed this planet and everything on it with such perfection for MEN to benefit from, if MEN decide that they know better and start manipulating with nature – it will lead to catastrophe. Nothing else. Once there are no boundaries on what CAN be genetically modified – EVERYTHING goes.
    If GE Salmon is NOT approved as a food source, it might be very well be approved for Pharma and Biotech needs (HUGE money making machine!!!), for cosmetics (HUGE money there too), for supplements, for veterinary use, for… endless possibilities…
    We should be eating/breathing/drinking all pure and natural. I suggest to have the “developers” of this innovative new breed to switch to eating just that for life – we’ll see them in 50 years to find out how it turned out…

  • Jim

    As expected, religion enters the discussion.
    Which is, in my humble opinion, the source of the vast majority of opposition to GMO. Way to represent the classically closed-minded view Alvant. Do you ever ask “why” or “how” . . . . or is it always “yes sir, god bless America, who do you want me to kill” I have a feeling some o your other hot topics are gays in the military and illegal immigration (please tell me I’m wrong).
    I agree we have a less than perfect system, an corruption exists at all levels in all parts of our society (not just th food industry). . . but none of this has anything to do with the Aquabounty fish. It’s simply a fish they put a growth hormone into so it would grow faster; Big Freaking Deal. I don’t necessarily disagree with labeling it as modified, but then where do ou draw the line on labeling? Do you need to know where it was grown? Whether it was fed corn, other fish, soy, etc.? What age it was harvested? Whether the people processing the food were Union Workers? The FDA’s job is to make sure it’s safe; they deemed it’s safe. maybe it should be labeled, but not for safety reasons (becaue it’s safe), but maybe for peference reasons. If that’s the case, the FDA shouldn’t make that decision (of course I don’t know who should . . . maybe the consumers (in othr words, if you are a picky consumer, make sure you only choose products labeled to your satisfaction)

  • Suzanne Rose

    This is vital!

  • Gina

    It’s not about religion. It’s about the innate wisdom of a long evolution in nature. Why is it when I eat natural foods with all the biodiverse components, my body heals from disease? But when I eat processed, chemicalized or genetically modified foods, I get SICK. The myth is that there isn’t enough food if we raise if naturally. That is a lie. Food raised naturally has more than enough nutrition. Check out permaculture. A small tract of land can produce an overabundance of food in a hurry because it is biodiverse. But GMOs deplete soil and destroy biodiversity. This is only about corporate Greed. That is all it’s about.

  • shawn

    the consumer will have less & less of a choice as time goes on .. for example ,if you wanted to get non GMO food someone will have to grow non gmo food froim seed which will no longer be available …. the gmo seed is a suicide geene seed that will only grow one time . also it will cross pollinate natural crops and therefore be the property of monsanto… think your way throutgh the whole process people . therse people are sealing off all options !!! sorry about some of the spelling

  • Doc Mudd

    Panic, panic, scream and shout.
    Panic, panic, run about!

  • Sofia

    I love the idea for stores to define the difference between GMO and wild fish. The difference is the health part of it. If i eat any GMO foods my system goes berserk, all kinds of nasty s happen. It’s such a sin parents feed this GMO junk to innocent children because they think their saving pennies, in the long run the kids will suffer.

  • Alan

    To all of those here who think our government is not “in bed” with government better actually watch this video…
    Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta, Cargill, and others have placed their people STRAGETICALLY into government regulator positions since around 1992. THEY’VE APPROVED THEIR OWN PRODUCTS !!!!
    I would not call this “scientifically Tested”.
    GMO’s are dangerous, just read some of the new research coming out from some of the academic labs…..things like, infertility, unrepairable damage to the immuine system, liver, kidneys, and intestines. GMO 1st uptakes in the small intestine, and then spreads to the other organs, but will not be seen in the bowel movements of test subjects because the GMO’s DNA is carried away by the small intestine, leaving no trace in the large intestine for anyone to find. These findings were found ONLY because scientists decided to do some tests on patients with colostomy bags.
    If you remember, these companies also said that Radiation, DDT, PCB’s, and AGENT ORANGE, among other’s, were safe ( after testing ), and look at what we now know over time ( 20-30 years typically ). GMO’s will be no different, only once that genie’s been let out of the bottle for too long, you won’t put it back in. Then Monsanto will succeed in doing what it wanted in the 1st place…..To Make a Killing selling it’s products.
    And for those who say we’re “alarmist’s”…..scientist’s don’t give two shits about politics, in fact, we purposely AVOID politics. We’re intrested ONLY IN DATA, whether it’s good or bad, in order to make the right decisions, and in this case all GMO’s are coming up BAD. One GMO executive once said that “labeling products with a CONTAINS GMO label would be like putting a skull and crossbones on it”…..wonder why he picked that image.
    And for those of you who are still not convinced, then please go ahead and continue eating GMO food, then in about another 10-15 years you, your kids, and grandkids can all be “test subjects” for us “alarmist’s”, oh I meant scientist’s.
    They’ll probably call it a “new virus” or “Disease”, it will be a disease all right, it will be the GMO’s eating you away from the inside out. But let’s not worry about that now right, I Mean, no one’s dropping dead in the streets yet, are they ??? And let’s all worry more about how much food costs, over it’s safety……Moron’s, you’d better wise up quick.

  • Jim

    Sorry Alan, but it is clear you are not a scientist as you claim (“scientists don’t give . . . . we only”). Your statement about GMO DNA being selectively take up by the small intestine shows your coplete lack of understanding of wat you are talking about. Can you please explain the mechanism by which this magic happens? Is there a little quality control inspector in the inestine who scans each genome as it passes through the gut, stamping little sections as “foreign”, and ushering them about? This is ridiculous.
    As I’ve said before, GMOs can not be lumped into a single category with similar effects. Each modification is different; some WILL have negative effects, some will have positive effects. They key is in evaluating the effects. The aquavantage fish positives (economics, sustainability, and believe it or not positive effects on natural pop.) outweigh the negatives (minor jawbone defects and focal inflammation (on the fish, not the consumers of)).
    People, please put preconcieved beliefs aside and do some actual research (not the kind found on websites with agendas).

  • palomo

    NO matter what you believe – are GMO good or bad? Are people just into conspiracy theories or not? Are you a scientist? Do we have to get GOD into this?
    What it all narrows down to, in my humble opinion is:
    if GMO’s are the same as NATURAL food?
    If GMO’s are safe; if GE food will cause no harm; if we won’t be made sick or have our genes mutate over it…. than why not label the GMO foods?
    We all can guess the percentage of American population who will bother to read the label anyhow, but GIVE ME A CHOICE.
    Then they can go do what they want, because we have no choice on that one.
    Advantage does their fish trials in Canada and is approved on that basis… for raising fish in Panama? It smells like big Pharma doing drug trials and getting approval in USA and then taking the mfg process to China, where we get contaminants, deaths, etc. because we do not have US agencies to supervise mgf in China or Panama… they use the cheapest labor and cheapest materials and really – do you think there won’t be an accident where the fish get loose? It’s already happened with GE foods, pollen blowing around, ruining organic fields.
    Feel however you want about feeding the world with GMO’s — but let’s at least agree that we deserve a choice to know what we are eating, drinking, breathing.

  • james

    make the same senators and congressmen and the supreame court feed all that poisen food to their family.

  • Lael Jackson

    NO MORE!!!

  • Dianne Sahakian

    We do not need any kind or kinds of genectically modified food, as we don’t need new thing happening to our bodies. Genectically modified crops are destroying the honeybees, shouldn’t that tell you something about life on earth. GMO food tastes like insecticide smells and we don’t need that. We need pure unadulterated food non GMO food. We need our food labeled wheter GMO or not. Why no labeels for GMO food big agriculture knows people won’t eat it thats why! People don’t want any GMO food of any kind. We want the old fashioned food from home grown farms.

  • Dianne Sahakian

    We do not need any kind or kinds of genectically modified food, as we don’t need new thing happening to our bodies. Genectically modified crops are destroying the honeybees, shouldn’t that tell you something about life on earth. GMO food tastes like insecticide smells and we don’t need that. We need pure unadulterated food non GMO food. We need our food labeled wheter GMO or not. Why no labeels for GMO food big agriculture knows people won’t eat it thats why! People don’t want any GMO food of any kind. We want the old fashioned food from home grown farms.

  • Andrew Sholly

    stop poisoning the population new world order

  • maria

    Did they ask the fish if it is ok? Releasing this type of experiment into the wild is highly irresponsible. I don’t want genetically engineered fish on my dinner plate or in my rivers streams & oceans! They belong in a laboratroy, where they were made and if folks really clamor for them, well they should head over to said laboratory and buy them there! WE DON”T NEED THIS CRAP IN OUR LIVES. Again, the like of Monsanto and now Aqua Bounty (Monsanto in fisherman’s clothing) are trying to own food. Now life. What’s next ? A clone army of Monsanto executives who run the world? Oh wait, that’s already happening. wake up and smell the brine, not the test lab chemicals that go into making something that can have devastating results on the most perfect of all things we have on this planet, Nature. Go to hell Monsanto and Aqua Bounty and stay the hell out of my life.

  • Caroly Saunders

    This is a horrifc future!!!
    What this will do to this, and future Generations is……
    HORRIFYING and really scary!!!!
    Just look at all ‘The New Drugs’ Big Pharmacuetical Corporations have come up with in the last few years!!!
    Without testing what the LONG TERM EFFECTS may be!!!!!!
    Please do NOT put the future of the humans into the hands of ‘SCIENTISTS’!!!