Lawmakers urge FDA to go slow on genetically modified salmon

With concern over seafood quality growing as a result of gulf contamination, fish buyers must carefully choose their stock and consider foreign options while trying to work with domestic fishermen.
By Rob Hotakainen
Wednesday, March 9, 2011; 6:23 AM

Fearing for the wild salmon industry in the Northwest, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) wants to stop the Food and Drug Administration from making a quick decision on whether to approve genetically modified Atlantic salmon for human consumption.

Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) says that Congress cannot allow "these alien fish to infect our stocks."

Murray and Young are part of a growing bipartisan coalition on Capitol Hill that is out to stop a Massachusetts biotechnology company from winning federal approval to sell its fast-growing fish, which critics are calling "Frankenfish."

"I'm very concerned this is being rushed through with massive potential for negative ramifications," Murray said.

Two pieces of legislation have been introduced in Congress: One would ban the fish outright, and the other would require it to be labeled as transgenic if the FDA approves it.

The legislation has the backing of 64 environmental and other organizations, including fishing associations, retailers and the Center for Food Safety, an advocacy group.

Andrew Kimbrell, the center's executive director, said Congress "has to step in to correct the failures of the Obama administration," which he criticized for allowing the FDA to proceed.

"FDA's decision to go ahead with this approval process is misguided and dangerous for consumers, the environment and our economy," he said.

But the fish are not without their fans.

In November, Time magazine named the genetically engineered salmon one of the top 50 inventions of 2010, noting that Americans love to eat salmon but that wild populations are dwindling.

That prompted a letter to the editor from Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), who chided the magazine for its selection.

"Want more salmon?" he asked. "Here's a better idea: Protect its natural habitat, maintain water quality and manage wild stocks for sustainability. That's what Alaska has done for over 50 years."

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