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Begich Leads Fight Against Genetically-Engineered Salmon


Dozens of organizations, lawmakers support letter to FDA

Leading the fight against the pending U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) approval of the first genetically-engineered (GE) animal for human consumption, U.S. Sen. Mark Begich and dozens of organizations and lawmakers sent a letter to the FDA today opposing the move. The FDA is considering a proposal from AquaBounty Technologies to produce a hybrid Atlantic salmon modified with a Chinook salmon growth gene and an antifreeze gene from an eel, the ocean pout.

"There are a number of serious concerns with the current approval process and many potential human health and environmental risks that are associated with producing GE fish have not been fully or openly reviewed," the letter states. "Critical information has been kept from the public and consequently, only FDA and AquaBounty know important details about the approval process for this GE salmon, or the product itself."

Begich has previously called the proposed salmon "Frankenfish" and questioned the safety of the product as well as the inadequate process for public comment on the proposal.

The letter signed today by Begich and ten other Senators is supported by 52 consumer and environmental groups, commercial and recreational fisheries associations, and food businesses and retailers. Those groups include the Alaska Marine Conservation Council, Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development, and the Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Association.

The letter questions the FDA's review process for a genetically-engineered animal intended as a human food product, saying the FDA should not be using the same process it uses for reviewing a new drug to be used for animals, when the end product is an animal to be eaten by humans.

"Clearly this is inappropriate. Creation of a new genetically engineered species should be not be treated as an animal drug issue but undergo formal evaluation by FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition to review the product's potential health effects on humans," the letter says.

The letter further questions the transparency of the FDA process, potential damage to the environment, potential harm to wild salmon, and a number of other concerns.

"We strongly urge you to stop the approval process immediately to allow for review and examination of the various concerns associated with genetically engineered animals, openly and with meaningful public input."

According to the consumer group Food & Water Watch, a recent poll shows 78 percent of Americans believe AquaBounty's GE product should not be approved for human consumption.

Here's the press release on the poll.

In addition to Sen. Begich, the other lawmakers signing the letter to the FDA include Sen. Lisa Murkowski (AK), Sen. Patty Murray (WA), Sen. Bernard Sanders (VT), Sen. Maria Cantwell (WA), Sen. Ron Wyden (OR), Sen. Patrick Leahy (VT), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), Sen. Barbara Mikulski (MD), Sen. Jeff Merkley (OR), and Sen. Jon Tester (MT).
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