U.S. Senator Mark Begich of Alaska reacted with strong concern today to two troubling news items highlighting the immediate threat of genetically modified foods spreading into Americans' food supply - one demonstrating the ability of Frankenfish to breed with wild fish and the other reporting on discovery of an un-approved strain of GMO wheat in Oregon.
A study conducted by Memorial University in Newfoundland, Canada, and released today found that genetically modified (GMO) salmon has the capacity to breed with wild trout and pass their engineered genes along to their offspring. The Frankenfish-trout hybrids proved even more voracious than either their genetically modified or natural parents, amplifying the threat to ocean ecosystems.
"It is clear GMO products pose a widespread and unmanageable threat to our wild fish supply and today's reports indicate that developers of these Frankenfish have not presented us with the basic facts," said Begich. "We can't let these GMO promoters play Russian roulette with our food supply."
Both Aquabounty and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which recently issued a finding of No Significant Impact, have repeatedly asserted that all the relevant research has taken place. Begich expressed further frustration the research on GMO salmon breeding with wild fish is just now being done.
The second concerning report comes from the discovery of a strain of genetically modified wheat growing in an Oregon field. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has never approved any genetically modified wheat, so it is unclear why the Monsanto product was growing there. The U.S. exports about half of our wheat, much of it to countries that ban GMO products, raising concerns that the findings could threaten U.S. exports.
"It is important to consider these two items together. Aquabounty assures us that there is no way for their Frankenfish to get into the wild. But the USDA and Monsanto gave us the same assurances that their GE wheat couldn't get into production, and look at what happened. This all goes to show us that once you let the Franken-Genie out of the test tube, it's almost impossible to put back in," Begich said.
Begich's Anti-GMO Work in the Senate:
Begich also recently co-sponsored an amendment to the Senate Farm Bill to eliminate the so-called "Monsanto Rider" -- a rider which would strip the courts of their power to halt the planting of genetically modified crops that could be dangerous to people or the environment. Begich has led the charge in Congress to prevent the FDA from approving genetically modified salmon until a proper review of its potential environmental impacts can take place. Begich recently led 12senators in a formal challenge to the FDA draft Environmental Assessment of the Aquabounty GMO salmon and finding of no significant environmental impact. He earlier led an effort to extend the public comment period to allow more time for the public to weigh in on the FDA's assessment.