Sen. Mark Begich, Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans and Fisheries, blasted today's announcement by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on its draft report finding that genetically engineered salmon holds "no significant impact" on the environment or public health.
"The notion that consuming Frankenfish is safe for the public and our oceans is a joke," Begich said. "I will fight tooth and nail with my Alaska colleagues to make sure consumers have a clear choice when it comes to wild and sustainable versus lab-grown science projects."
Sen. Begich has been protesting against the FDA's march in favor of genetically modified salmon since he came to the Senate. Begich is calling on all Alaskans to participate in the ongoing public comment period and let the FDA know how they feel about Frankenfish. Public comment opens next Wednesday and Begich will publicize the mechanism for public comment when it becomes available."
With loose findings that the modified fish are "unlikely" to harm the environment, the FDA draft Environmental Assessment (EA) is a step towards approving GE salmon for sale in the U.S. Alaska is the world's largest producer of wild, sustainably-harvested salmon.
"People want to know they are eating natural, healthy, wild salmon," Begich said. "Today's assessment by the FDA imperils families and fisherman."
Begich has been a vocal skeptic of introducing Frankenfish into the nation's food supply, citing concerns about threats to the environment and public health. The damaging impacts of other invasive species released into the environment are well known. There are concerns that the consumer's right to know what they're buying and eating is being ignored.
"The FDA shouldn't be making decisions on marine fisheries," Begich said. "Today's report is by no means the final say on this issue. I will continue to fight hard against these genetic mutations whose only purpose is purely for profit. Americans deserve to know the health and environmental superiority of wild Alaska seafood and not be fooled into thinking GE fish is somehow equivalent."
Begich introduced the Prevention of Escapement of Genetically Altered Salmon in the United States, which would have prohibited the sale of Frankenfish unless the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued a finding that production of Frankenfish would have no significant impact or found to be consistent with the National Environmental Protection Act.
The 2007 FDA reauthorization act required a report to Congress on the potential impacts of genetically modified fish on the environment generally. They have yet to submit a written report to Congress.
"I am also concerned that the FDA is continuing to disregard the will of Congress," Begich said. "It seems incredibly irresponsible to be moving forward on Frankenfish before they've taken a step back, consulted with experts on marine fisheries, and considered the potential impacts more broadly."
Public opposition to the approval of Frankenfish is strong. Last year, 93 groups representing fishermen, consumers and others signed a letter in opposition to the Frankenfish proposal. Polling data suggests even broader rejection of GE salmon among potential consumers.