By Lyndsey Layton
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 28, 2010; 10:14 PM
Eleven senators, mostly from coastal states, urged the Food and Drug Administration Tuesday to stop moving forward with the approval process for a genetically modified Atlantic salmon.
Led by Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), the senators complained to FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg that the agency is using the wrong process for evaluating the safety of the modified fish and that the public is being left out.
The fish, named the AquAdvantage salmon by the biotech company seeking federal approval to market it, is an Atlantic salmon that has been given a growth hormone from a Chinook salmon and a gene from an eel-like ocean pout, which allows it to grow twice as fast as a wild Atlantic salmon. It would be the first genetically modified animal approved for human consumption in the United States.
Begich said the FDA is incorrectly treating the request for approval of AquAdvantage salmon as if it were a new veterinary drug and not as a new animal that humans consume. Under the current process, the company is allowed to keep private some of the data it submits to the FDA on the grounds that it is classified business information.
Serious health and environmental questions regarding the fish cannot be adequately evaluated by the public, Begich wrote.
Other senators who signed the letter were Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.).
An agency spokeswoman said the FDA will "respond directly to the members of Congress."