GENET archive

[Index][Thread]

GMO-FREE PRODUCTS & REGULATION: Alaska Senators introduce bill to ban GE salmon in U.S. Congress



                                  PART 1


------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:   ALASKA SENS. INTRODUCE ?FRANKENFISH? BAN

SOURCE:  Juneau Empire, USA

AUTHOR:  Jonathan Grass

URL:     http://www.juneauempire.com/stories/020111/loc_779163293.shtml

DATE:    01.02.2011

SUMMARY: "U.S. Senators Mark Begich and Lisa Murkowski formally reintroduced legislation to the 112th Congress to ban genetically engineered salmon. [...] ?I am strongly opposed to the FDA approval of genetically engineered salmon. It is completely irresponsible for the FDA to even consider this action without evaluating the impacts on Alaska?s wild salmon fisheries,? Murkowski stated in a release. ?The FDA has not studied the environmental effects, let alone the economic impacts on the salmon and seafood markets that would result from approval.?"

----- archive: http://www.genet-info.org/information-services.html -----


ALASKA SENS. INTRODUCE ?FRANKENFISH? BAN

U.S. Senators Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) formally reintroduced legislation to the 112th Congress to ban genetically engineered salmon.

The senators included a companion bill that would require labeling the fish as such in the event they are allowed on the shelves.

Such salmon, which have been dubbed ?Frankenfish,? were proposed by AquaBounty Technologies and are currently under consideration by the Food and Drug Administration. AquaBounty proposes to produce a hybrid Atlantic salmon modified with a Chinook salmon growth gene and an antifreeze gene from an ocean pout.

?Frankenfish threatens our wild stocks, their habitat, our food safety, and would bring economic harm to Alaska?s wild salmon fishermen,? Begich said in a press release. ?Genetically-modified salmon, the first such hybrid to be considered for human consumption, is risky, unprecedented and unnecessary.?

?I am strongly opposed to the FDA approval of genetically engineered salmon. It is completely irresponsible for the FDA to even consider this action without evaluating the impacts on Alaska?s wild salmon fisheries,? Murkowski stated in a release. ?The FDA has not studied the environmental effects, let alone the economic impacts on the salmon and seafood markets that would result from approval.?

They originally entered the bill during the last Congressional session with Begich sponsoring and Murkowski co-sponsoring. The session ended before the bill could be decided.

?We?re going to keep trying,? said Begich?s press secretary, Julie Hasquet. ?We weren?t going to give up just because the session ended.?

Begich and Murkowski were among 10 senators who sent a letter to the FDA questioning the review process and safety of such genetically engineered salmon. The release states the FDA has not yet indicated when it will make a decision on the fish, and the senators are hoping to move the legislation quickly.

The Frankenfish issue is important to those in Alaska?s salmon industry. No matter the future of the two bills, it was an important one to bring forward with strong feelings within the industry, said Douglas Island Pink and Chum Executive Director Eric Prestegard.

?It?s a strong, good product statewide, and by having Lisa introduce it, it shows Alaska stands strong on wild salmon,? he said.

He said it will be hard to tell how the FDA will decide, or even if the fish will be a good or bad thing. One thing he?s sure of is that labeling Alaskan wild salmon as such is important to the product, and properly labeling and distinguishing these fish is just as important.

?Alaska has strong ties to wild salmon,? Prestegard said. ?We?re pretty strong about labeling, so those will at least have to be labeled farmed fish.?

The bill to ban the genetically engineered fish was co-sponsored by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Washington), and the labeling bill was co-sponsored by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon).



                                  PART 2

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:   GROWING CONCERN OVER GENETICALLY ENGINEERED SALMON

SOURCE:  OpEdNews, USA

AUTHOR:  Elaine Cullen

URL:     http://www.opednews.com/articles/Growing-Concern-Over-Genet-by-Elaine-Cullen-110127-613.html

DATE:    28.01.2011

SUMMARY: "Senator Mark Begich [...] said that one of his top priorities in this congressional session would be legislation to stop the FDA from approving the sale of genetically-engineered salmon fish for human consumption. As the FDA decides whether to allow AquaBounty?s genetically engineered salmon to be sold in the United States, there are increasing concerns from a number of sources about the safety and reasons for the genetic alteration of salmon as a food source and the genetic engineering of animals overall for food and medicine."

----- archive: http://www.genet-info.org/information-services.html -----


GROWING CONCERN OVER GENETICALLY ENGINEERED SALMON

On Tuesday, January 18th, Senator Mark Begich (D-AK), addressing the Marine Science Symposium in Anchorage, Alaska said that one of his top priorities in this congressional session would be legislation to stop the FDA from approving the sale of genetically-engineered salmon (GE) fish for human consumption. As the FDA decides whether to allow AquaBounty?s genetically engineered salmon to be sold in the United States, there are increasing concerns from a number of sources about the safety and reasons for the genetic alteration of salmon as a food source and the genetic engineering of animals overall for food and medicine.

AquaBounty?s genetically altered salmon adds a growth hormone from a Chinook salmon and a gene from an eel like fish, the ocean pout, causing the salmon to grow more quickly, and is the first submission for approval for sale of genetically engineered animals for food in the United States. It is assumed that the approval by the FDA will open the floodgates to a large number of genetically engineered animals being produced for use as food or medicines.

AquaBounty also is currently developing a genetically engineered trout and a genetically engineered tilapia.

Companies in the U.S. and other countries are working to develop other genetically engineered fish as well as cows and pigs. The FDA has received an outpouring of negative response from politicians, the scientific community and the public, concerned about possible FDA approval of the AquaBounty genetically engineered salmon and the genetic engineering of animals for food and medicine generally.

Senator Begich, along with ten members of the Senate, and Congressmen Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) and Mike Thompson (D-CA), along with 29 members of the House of Representatives, sent separate letters to the FDA asking them to halt the approval, and to address the serious problems with the FDA?s approval process. Over 300 environmental and public health groups signed letters to the FDA opposing the approval.

The FDA requested input from the National Academies of Science about possible science based concerns about the genetic engineering of animals. The National Academies of Science stated in their response, that in many of the genetically engineered animals, ?the genetic engineering often resulted in unplanned anatomical, physiological or behavior abnormalities.?

The FDA?s 2008 document regarding the commercial approval of genetically engineered animals, the ?Guidance of Regulation of Genetically Engineered Animals?, resulted in almost 29,000 public comments in response. The FDA noted that of these comments, ?the vast majority opposed the genetic engineering of animals.?

Another issue that has been raised is the FDA?s classification of the genetically engineered salmon, and all other genetically engineered animals as a drug rather than a food product, although they are being sold as food products. This classification serves to bypass the regulatory requirement that forms the base for the FDA?s oversight of animals that will be used for food to monitor the animal?s health in order to assure the health of the U.S. food supply.

The allowance of the genetic engineering of animals, which is more likely to harm the animal?s health and their suitability as a food source was one of the concerns that the FDA noted was raised in their public as well as scientific responses regarding the genetic engineering of animals. In addition, there are concerns that genetically engineered animals may cause allergic reactions in sensitive people.

Calling them ?Frankenfish?, Senator Begich likened the genetically engineered salmon to a ?monster that threatens our wild stocks and their habitat, our food safety and economic harm to Alaska wild salmon fisherman.? The risk of the genetically engineered salmon threatening the native Atlantic salmon population is one of the greatest concerns about the approval of the genetically engineered salmon.

AquaBounty stated in their application for approval to the FDA that they will use two containment methods to assure that the Alaska wild salmon population would not be at risk; sterilizing the genetically engineered salmon eggs that will be produced on Prince Edward Island in Canada, and physical containment where the fish will be grown in Panama.

AquaBounty has stated that they would be complying with the regulatory guidelines of each country where they are involved. Although the Canadian government must be notified before any genetically engineered animals can be imported or commercially manufactured in Canada and an assessment done to assure that they are not a threat to the environment, Leo Broderick, vice chair of the Council of Canadians, as part of a larger coalition of public action groups in Prince Edward Island, said that neither AquaBounty nor Environment Canada have responded to requests as to whether an environmental risk assessment is being done. The group has asked Prince Edward Island Premier, Robert Ghiz, to press Environment Canada for more transparency.

Even if the containment methods were being implemented fully, there are concerns about the effectiveness of both means of containment. The sterilization means of containment that AquaBounty will be using, Triploidy chromosomal sterilization, is less than 100% effective. The FDA is required to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in order to decide whether the approval would pose a danger to wild Atlantic salmon. In FSW documents made public in a Freedom of Information Act request, by the organization, Food and Water Watch, government officials expressed doubts that the containment methods will keep the genetically engineered salmon from threatening wild Atlantic salmon. They also raised other concerns about the genetic engineering of the salmon in general. The internal FSW documents questioned the FDA?s ability to decide about the threats to the native Atlantic salmon population, saying that the process presented a situation, ?where FDA, whose jurisdiction is
  not focused on natural resources is entrusted with the authority to approve an application which poses such a threat to the country?s natural resources.? In a letter summing up it?s recommendations to the FDA, the FSW, noted that there were ?several unknowns and uncertainties regarding possible genetic, ecological and environmental effects of AquaAdvantage salmon that must be elucidated before an environmental risk assessment can be thoroughly evaluated and approved.? Which, said the FSW, ?suggests that the approval of AquaBounty Technologies? request for commercial rearing of AquaAdvantage was premature.?



                                  PART 3

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:   FOR BETTER OR WORSE, CANADA ON HOOK FOR 'FRANKENFISH'

SOURCE:  Vancouver Sun, Canada

AUTHOR:  St. John?s Telegram, Canada, by Steve Bartlett

URL:     http://www.vancouversun.com/technology/better+worse+Canada+hook+Frankenfish/4150647/story.html

DATE:    22.01.2011

SUMMARY: "If the salmon gets the fin?s-up from the U.S. agency, Fletcher believes it?ll be proof of something the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council has always preached ? that basic research can be turned into a business. The scientist said he doesn?t think the FDA will block sale of the salmon because there?s no scientific rationale for doing so. Stotish and AquaBounty?s investors hope Fletcher is right. The U.S. market for salmon is massive, with the country importing as much as 300,000 tonnes per year."

----- archive: http://www.genet-info.org/information-services.html -----


FOR BETTER OR WORSE, CANADA ON HOOK FOR 'FRANKENFISH'

ST. JOHN?S ? In a place built on fish five centuries ago, this is a fish tale like no other.

Controversial salmon research pioneered on Canada?s East Coast decades ago is in the final stage of the U.S. approval process.

The science sees genetically engineered fish that grow twice as fast as wild salmon.

If the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gives it the go-ahead, the salmon will be the first genetically modified animal species approved for sale to Americans ? a move that could open the floodgates to other engineered animals.

?Pioneers? Yes, and we have the bruises and scars to show it,? says Ron Stotish, president and CEO of AquaBounty Technologies, the Massachusetts company hoping for the green light.

?It?s always difficult to be first. You?re the lightning rod for everyone who opposes your technology.?

The science stemmed from the work of Memorial University in Newfoundland-based researchers Garth Fletcher and Choy Hew, and Peter Davies of Queen?s University in Kingston, Ont.

In the 1980s, the team began injecting genes into Atlantic salmon to see if they could produce a fish better able to survive the province?s frigid winter waters.

They were unable to produce such a salmon. However, they were eventually successful in transferring the gene.

?It took a number of years to do it,? Fletcher said.

Using what they had learned, the researchers injected the fish with a growth hormone gene to try to create a salmon that matured faster.

That was in 1989. A eureka moment soon followed.

?We saw the first fast-growing fish in the summer of ?90,? Fletcher recalls.

The scientists then worked with Memorial University and the University of Toronto to protect the discovery, with the final patent coming in 1996.

That?s the same year they were approached at an academic conference by Elliot Entis, who wanted to license the research.

He had started A/F Protein, a biotech company pursuing a fish antifreeze protein it could sell.

The firm reorganized and spun off AquaBounty Farms in 2000. Four years later, the name changed to AquaBounty Technologies.

It became publicly traded in 2006.

Around that time, AquaBounty started trying to get the sale of super salmon approved.

A process to approve the fish for market didn?t exist at the time, and the U.S. agency spent a few years creating a regulatory mechanism.

In September, the FDA declared AquaBounty?s genetically engineered salmon safe to eat and said it posed no environmental threat.

The company?s quest and the FDA?s approval has been met with waves of controversy.

Some critics have dubbed it ?Frankenfish.?

They question the safety of eating genetically engineering salmon. One of the main consumption fears is that dangerous allergens could be present in the fish.

Others wonder what will happen if the fish escape and breed with wild salmon. Such concerns are unfounded, Stotish said, arguing it?s actually safer than traditional aquaculture because the genetically engineered salmon are sterile.

The detractors are in high places, though.

On Tuesday, Alaskan Senator Mark Begich said he?ll soon introduce legislation to prevent the FDA from rubber-stamping AquaBounty?s salmon.

?Many call them ?Frankenfish? for good reasons: a monster that threatens our wild stocks and their habitat, our food safety and economic harm to Alaska wild-salmon fishermen,? Begich was quoted as saying at a marine-science event in Anchorage.

Outside the safety and ecological concerns, there is also a movement in the U.S. to have AquaBounty?s fish labelled as being genetically modified, if the FDA approves it.

A bill was introduced in California earlier this month to make such packaging mandatory.

Most of the debate is happening in the U.S., but there is opposition in Canada, too.

AquaBounty has a production facility in Prince Edward Island, and a group opposing it met with P.E.I. Premier Robert Ghiz this month.

?People all over the world are very concerned that Prince Edward Island will become the sole producer of the first genetically engineered (GE) animals, if in fact the United States does license it for the dinner plate,? Leo Broderick of the Council of Canadians told The Charlottetown Guardian following the meeting with Ghiz.

?It?s a black eye for the province. We do not need this distinction or designation as the home of the Frankensalmon.?

Sharon Labchuk of Earth Action, a P.E.I.-based environmental group, told the paper their premier doesn?t have an issue with genetically modified food.

?He has no problem with eating them himself. . . . Now that he?s a father, I don?t think his daughter should be eating (GMO foods or animals) either,? Labchuk said.

?I don?t think anybody should be eating these foods because they have not been proven safe.?

AquaBounty?s Stotish says people railing against his company?s salmon are uninformed or simply doing so because they oppose the technology behind genetically modified foods.

Stotish points to the FDA declaration that the fish are fit to eat. He says he?s eaten and enjoyed the product.

?It?s indistinguishable from any high-quality Atlantic salmon,? he says.

Amid all the debate, Time magazine named AquaBounty?s faster-growing salmon as one of 2010?s best inventions.

?On the one hand, you have people who don?t like technology decrying the use of this technology, and on the other hand, you have an unsolicited endorsement from a major publication, saying this is certainly one of the most interesting stories and perhaps one of the best technologies of the year,? Stotish says.

Keeping a close eye on all this from where the salmon discovery hatched two decades ago is Fletcher, now the director of Memorial University?s Ocean Sciences Centre.

?I guess it?s my baby,? he says. ?And, certainly, a huge chunk of the development was done at Memorial here. The fish they are growing today still carry at least one gene from the Newfoundland salmon.?

The amount of reaction to the fact that it could be approved for market by the FDA raised Fletcher?s eyebrows.

?One day alone, I think there were 150 publications on the subject. Hey, I don?t get citations like that on my science stuff.?

As for the concerns, he says there needs to be a cultural education on the food product and echoes the fact the fish are sterile.

Time?s nod, 20 years after that first fish was developed, came as a surprise to Fletcher. It?s recognition he welcomes, though.

?I?m not too concerned about me, personally, but I felt this was good, this was a first for Newfoundland, a first for Memorial University ? at least in this technology ? and we were the pioneers anyway.?

Stotish wouldn?t hazard a guess as to when the FDA?s final decision might come down. He says he wishes he knew.

?What they tell people is they don?t work on timelines: ?When we?re ready to grant approval, if we?re ready to grant approval, we will do so and we haven?t decided yet.??

If the salmon gets the fin?s-up from the U.S. agency, Fletcher believes it?ll be proof of something the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council has always preached ? that basic research can be turned into a business.

The scientist said he doesn?t think the FDA will block sale of the salmon because there?s no scientific rationale for doing so.

Stotish and AquaBounty?s investors hope Fletcher is right.

The U.S. market for salmon is massive, with the country importing as much as 300,000 tonnes per year.

Stotish has no idea how much of that market his company could capture, but says a small percentage would make them successful.