In response to the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) decision to award a $494,162 grant to AquaBounty Technologies, Alaska Congressman Don Young and Congressman Peter DeFazio (OR) sent a letter today to the USDA asking them to rescind the grant immediately. The grant was awarded as part of the Biotechnology Research Assessment Grants (BRAG) program which aims to help organizations research and assess risks of new biotechnology projects.
To view the letter, click here.
"The USDA should not be in the business of picking winners and losers," said Rep. Young. "Propping up a company who has already researched and developed their technologies should not be the business of the federal government. This company is not losing money due to a lack of research; they are losing money because Americans prefer Wild Salmon over Frankenfish. This issue is very important to me and I will continue to lead the fight in Congress against the approval of genetically engineered fish in any form."
"We've recently found a deadly fish virus apparently from fish farmed from the East Coast. We cannot tolerate additional threats to our valuable wild salmon stocks," said Rep. DeFazio. "This grant needs to be reconsidered. GE Salmon threatens our fishing and coastal communities, our food source, and already depleted wild salmon populations. The USDA should put the interests and safety of our ocean resources above special interests."
There has been strong Congressional opposition to the approval of genetically engineered (GE) fish, most notably during last year's Agriculture Appropriations bill. Congressman Young was successful in passing an amendment to H.R. 2112, the Agriculture Appropriations Act of 2012 which banned the FDA from considering genetically modified salmon as an animal drug.
Dear Acting Director Jacobs-Young,
We write to you regarding a $494,162 grant awarded in September through the Biotechnology Research Assessment Greants (BRAG) program to AquaBounty Technologies, Inc. We believe this grant is inappropriate given recent press reports about the company's deteriorating financial situation. We also find it questionable that this grant to conduct research on decreasing the risk of gene flow from genetically engineered (GE) fish was given to the very company that seeks to profit off of approval of its GE fish.
The risk of gene flow is a serious concern posed by GE fish and is currently being studied by numerous academic institutions around the world. The National Institute of Food and Agriculture's (NIFA) BRAG program was never intended to be in the business of subsidizing companies to overcome products unfit for the market. According to its mission statement, the BRAG Program seeks "to support the generation of new information that will assist Federal regulatory agencies in making science-based decisions about the effects of introducing into the environment genetically engineered organisms." In essence, BRAG supports institutions to research and assess risks--not help companies create new risks. We find this type of award a gross misuse of taxpayer funds and an extreme departure from the mission and letter of the BRAG program.
As the institute surely knows, your grant comes more than one year after the FDA's decision to begin the approval process for the AquaAdvantage salmon, which the company has promised will already be sterile and unable to reproduce in the wild as a result of their technologies. In light of the current FDA proceedings, we question why this NIFA grant is necessary as it appears the company has already researched and developed similar technologies.
Congressional opposition to the approval of GE fish for human consumption has been clearly stated numerous times, most notably when the House passed the FY2012 Agriculture Appropriations Act, which contains explicit GE salmon prohibitions. This pervasive opposition stems from serious concerns regarding the review process being used by the FDA in considering AquaBounty Technologies' application as well as a plethora of human health, economic, animal welfare and environmental risks, including the risk of gene flow.
We understand the tremendous need for well-funded research into the risks of gene flow throughout agriculture but have grave concerns with your decision making and ask that you immediately rescind the grant to AquaBounty.
Thank you for your consideration.