US Senator, Mark Begich, along with ten other senators are spearheading a fight to stop the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) from approving the human consumption of genetically modified salmon (GM salmon). If approved, the GM salmon would be the first GM animal to be approved for the human food supply. The 11 senators, mostly from coastal states, have sent a letter to the FDA opposing the move. Sen Begich adds that dozens of organizations have also protested.

A decision on whether to approve a proposal from AquaBounty Technologies to produce and market a GM salmon, which is a cross between the Atlantic salmon and a Chinook salmon (its growth gene), as well as containing an antifreeze gene from an eel, has been postponed by the FDA.

The letter states:

There are a number of serious concerns with the current approval process and many potential human health and environmental risks that are associated with producing GE fish have not been fully or openly reviewed.

Critical information has been kept from the public and consequently, only FDA and AquaBounty know important details about the approval process for this GE salmon, or the product itself.

Begich, who coined the term "Frankenfish" when referring to this GM salmon, says he is concerned about the safety of the product. He questions whether the process for public comment on the proposal is adequate.

According to Begich, the letter is signed by 11 Senators, including himself, and is supported by 52 environmental groups, consumer groups, retailers, food businesses and commercial and recreational fisheries associations, including the Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Association, the Alaska Marine Conservation Council, and Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development.

As the product in question is an animal to be eaten by humans, the letter states that the FDA should not be using the same process it uses when considering a new drug application.

The letter states:

Clearly this is inappropriate. Creation of a new genetically engineered species should be not be treated as an animal drug issue but undergo formal evaluation by FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition to review the product's potential health effects on humans.

The transparency of the FDA process is also questioned. The letter quotes a number of concerns, including potential environmental damage, as well as the risk of harm to wild salmon.

The letter adds:

We strongly urge you to stop the approval process immediately to allow for review and examination of the various concerns associated with genetically engineered animals, openly and with meaningful public input.

Begich quotes a recent survey by carried out by Food & Water Watch, a consumer group, which revealed that 78% of Americans do not want the GM Salmon to be approved.

The letter was signed by:
  • Sen. Begich (Alaska)
  • Sen. Lisa Murkowski (AK)
  • Sen. Patty Murray (WA)
  • Sen. Bernard Sanders (VT)
  • Sen. Maria Cantwell (WA)
  • Sen. Ron Wyden (OR)
  • Sen. Patrick Leahy (VT)
  • Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (NY)
  • Sen. Barbara Mikulski (MD)
  • Sen. Jeff Merkley (OR)
  • Sen. Jon Tester (MT).
List of organizations that endorse the letter

Letter to the FDA Commissioner of Food and Drugs

Written by Christian Nordqvist