GENET archive

[Index][Thread]

RISK ASSESSMENT & APPROVAL: Engineered salmon still a distant reality



                                  PART 1


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

TITLE:   ENGINEERED SALMON STILL A DISTANT REALITY

SOURCE:  Yahoo! News, USA

AUTHOR:  The Associated Press, USA, Mary Clare Jalonick

URL:     http://news.yahoo.com/engineered-salmon-still-distant-reality-072732092.html

DATE:    12.09.2011

SUMMARY: "Members of Congress are pushing to stop the Food and Drug Administration from approving genetically engineered salmon, saying not enough is known about a fish they say could harm fishery businesses in coastal states. It appeared last year that the FDA might approve the engineered salmon quickly. But the congressional pushback and a lack of action by the FDA could mean the fish won?t be on the nation?s dinner tables any time soon."

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


ENGINEERED SALMON STILL A DISTANT REALITY

WASHINGTON (AP) - Members of Congress are pushing to stop the Food and Drug Administration from approving genetically engineered salmon, saying not enough is known about a fish they say could harm fishery businesses in coastal states.

It appeared last year that the FDA might approve the engineered salmon quickly. But the congressional pushback and a lack of action by the FDA could mean the fish won?t be on the nation?s dinner tables any time soon.

The fish, which grows twice as fast as the conventional variety, is engineered by AquaBounty, a Massachusetts-based company, but not yet allowed on the market. The company?s application has been pending for more than 15 years. If the agency approves it, it would be the first time the government allows such modified animals to be marketed for people to eat.

Congressional opposition to the engineered fish is led by members of the Alaska delegation. They see the modified salmon as a threat to the state?s wild salmon industry.

In June, the House adopted an amendment by Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, to an agriculture spending bill that would prevent the FDA from spending any money on approving the fish. His amendment was approved by voice vote with no objections.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said last week she will attempt to add the same amendment to the Senate version of the bill.

?It kind of gives me the heebie jeebies that we are messing with what Mother Nature did a pretty good job with in terms of a king salmon,? Murkowski said.

While Murkowski?s opposition is rooted in concern for her state?s fishing industry, other senators have expressed worries about potential food safety or environmental risks. More than a dozen senators have written the FDA with concern about the approval process and food safety and environmental risks. Bills to stop the salmon have been introduced in both chambers.

Ron Stotish, the chief executive of AquaBounty, said he was optimistic when the FDA decided to hold hearings on the company?s application. But a year later, he said, he is frustrated by the delay and has lost investors in his business.

?If you had asked me a year ago if we would be having this conversation, I would have said no,? he said.

The FDA is still in the process of completing their review, spokesman Doug Karas said, ?although we cannot predict when that will be.?

Karas said the FDA is planning on releasing a review of potential environmental impacts of growing the salmon - and soliciting public comments on that review - before reaching a decision. That means a decision could be months or even years away.

In the hearings last year, FDA officials said the fish is as safe to eat as the traditional variety. But critics call the modified salmon a ?frankenfish.? They say they are concerned it could cause human allergies and the eventual decimation of the wild salmon population if the engineered animals escape.

AquaBounty has maintained that the fish is safe and that there are several safeguards against environmental problems. The fish would be bred female and sterile, though a very small percentage might still be able to breed. The company said potential for escape is low. The FDA backed these assertions in documents released before these hearings last year.

Genetically engineered - or GE - animals are not clones, which the FDA has already said are safe to eat. Clones are copies of an animal. In GE animals, the DNA has been altered to produce a desirable characteristic. The process is common in plant foods like corn and soybeans.

In the case of the salmon, AquaBounty has added a growth hormone from a Chinook salmon that allows the fish to produce growth hormone all year long. The engineers were able to keep the hormone active by using another gene from an eel-like fish called an ocean pout that acts like an on switch for the hormone. Typical salmon produce the growth hormone only some of the time.

Stotish acknowledged that approval of AquaBounty?s product is likely more difficult because they are the first. Approval of the company?s application would open the door for a variety of other genetically engineered animals, including an ?Enviropig? being developed in Canada that has less-polluting manure or cattle that are resistant to mad cow disease. Each would have to be individually approved by the FDA.

?Blocking us is the best way to block anything that would come behind us,? Stotish said.



                                  PART 2

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

TITLE:   SENATORS OFFER AMENDMENTS TO AG APPROPRIATIONS BILL

SOURCE:  AgWeek, USA

AUTHOR:  Jerry Hagstrom

URL:     http://www.agweek.com/event/article/id/19068/

DATE:    12.09.2011

SUMMARY: "Murkowski wants to prohibit funding for the FDA to consider approving genetically modified salmon as food. The salmon under consideration would take genes from several types of salmon and create a salmon that would be the size of an Alaskan king salmon, but grow ?in a remarkably reduced time,? she said. Many people in Alaska have raised concerns that the salmon could escape from fish farms and pose a risk to the wild salmon population, she said, noting that Alaska fishermen are ?very fearful? that the genetically modified salmon could impact prices and demand."

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


SENATORS OFFER AMENDMENTS TO AG APPROPRIATIONS BILL

WASHINGTON - Amendments to keep the Food and Drug Administration from approving ?Frankenfish? genetically modified salmon and to stop the Agriculture Department from cutting back on the use of potatoes and other starchy vegetables in the school lunch program are among those that might be offered on the Senate floor if the Senate version of the fiscal year 2012 Agriculture appropriations bill comes up there as an independent piece of legislation.

When the Senate Appropriations Committee met to approve the fiscal year agriculture bill Sept. 7, several senators offered amendments, but ultimately deferred to Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Herb Kohl, D-Wis., who asked them to wait to bring those bills up on the floor. The senators, however, expressed concerns that, because of the the shortness of the congressional schedule, the agriculture bill might be merged with others.

?I am a little concerned that each individual bill will not be moved on the floor,? said Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, author of the salmon bill.

Fish fears

Murkowski wants to prohibit funding for the FDA to consider approving genetically modified salmon as food. The salmon under consideration would take genes from several types of salmon and create a salmon that would be the size of an Alaskan king salmon, but grow ?in a remarkably reduced time,? she said. Many people in Alaska have raised concerns that the salmon could escape from fish farms and pose a risk to the wild salmon population, she said, noting that Alaska fishermen are ?very fearful? that the genetically modified salmon could impact prices and demand.

Murkowski also said that FDA usually is accused of moving slowly on its approvals, but in this case is moving too quickly, although Aqua Bounty, the Massachusetts company that developed the salmon, first applied to the FDA for permission to sell the fish in 1995.

Kohl told Murkowski that if she insisted on bringing up her amendment today, he would oppose it.

?The Senate should not try to overrule scientists, ?Kohl said.

Such Senate action, he added, could ?dissuade investment in other biotech products.?

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., told Murkowski, ?I don?t like genetically modified anything,? but added that this situation had ?caught us cold? and that she would prefer to ?do due diligence? before voting on the amendment. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., also noted that she would want to check with fishery experts in Louisiana before voting on it, and Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee ranking member Ray Blunt, R-Mo., said he also would oppose it.

Murkowski concluded that she would ?pay particular attention to my colleagues from the coastal states? and hold her amendment. But she added that if the agriculture bill does not come up on the floor, ?you can all look forward to a visit from me to discuss Frankenfish.?

[...]