GE Opponents gear up to block FDA approval of Frankenfish

By Laine Welch, January 19, 2013.  Source: Anchorage Daily News

Fishing groups, consumers and health organizations are launching a final push to keep genetically modified fish off American dinner plates.

During the holidays, the Food and Drug Administration announced its conclusion that the fish, tweaked to grow at least three times faster than normal, will not harm the human environment or wild salmon stocks. An FDA green light is the last step before AquaBounty, creator of the so-called Frankenfish, can send its fish to market. The public has until Feb. 26 to comment to the FDA.

Alaska Sens. Mark Begich and Lisa Murkowski have asked the FDA for a 60-day extension of the comment period. Senators from Washington, Oregon and Maryland backed the request. No word yet on whether it will be granted.

Meanwhile, Begich said the agency is moving “full steam ahead with fine-tuning its Frankenfish regulations.” He said he isn’t optimistic that public opinion can derail a federal OK.

Last year the federal government awarded a $500,000 research grant to AquaBounty after the company disclosed it could run out of cash early this year. Over the past 16 years, Aqua Bounty has spent $67 million to genetically tweak its “AquaAdvantage” Atlantic salmon and pursue permits to sell it.

Begich called FDA support of the fish “totally misguided.”

“The FDA is not equipped to understand the impacts this genetically engineered fish will have on the environment and ecosystem,” he said in a recent teleconference. That echoed earlier comments by Rep. Don Young and Murkowski.

As of Friday, 3,209 comments had been posted. Of 15 pages of comments, not one supported the fish. The Alaska Legislature and state fishing groups have come out strongly against the fish, as has the National Humane Society and the Center for Food Safety, among others.

“Can they move forward even with so much opposition by so many diverse groups?” Begich asked. “The sad answer to this is, probably.”

According to AquaBounty documents, the company plans to grow the modified Atlantic salmon eggs at a lab on Prince Edward Island, fly them to Panama to inland fish farms and ship them back to the U.S. for sale.

But Alaska’s congressional delegation hasn’t given up.

“We intend to reintroduce legislation” to prevent this product from coming to market, Begich said. “We will also deal with the labeling issue and some others. So if they think we are just going to roll over … they are mistaken.”

Comments can be sent to regulations.gov.

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Filed under Genetic Engineering, Industrial agriculture, Oceans, Water

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