Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Coalition calls for FDA to halt approval of genetically engineered salmon
Center for Food Safety
December 20, 2011
Discovery of undisclosed infection of salmon eggs calls into question company claims that GE salmon are safe for the environment
Yesterday afternoon a coalition of 11 food safety, environmental, consumer and fisheries organizations sent a letter to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) calling for a halt to its approval of a genetically engineered (GE) salmon after learning that the company’s – AquaBounty Technologies, Inc. – research site was contaminated with a new strain of Infectious Salmon Anaemia (ISA), the deadly fish flu that is devastating fish stocks around the world.
“This new information calls into question the reliability of AquaBounty’s data and the validity of its claims that their fish are safe for the environment” said Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of the Center for Food Safety. “The FDA must respond appropriately and conduct their own environmental impact statement that looks at a broad range of environmental risks from these genetically engineered salmon, including the risk of spreading diseases such as ISA and antibiotic use for other diseases.”
AquaBounty has claimed that the company’s process for raising GE fish is safer than traditional aquaculture. However, documents that were revealed last week indicate that their production site was found by Canadian Authorities to have been contaminated in Nov. 2009. This information was hidden from the public and potentially FDA and other Federal agencies consulting on the GE salmon application. ISA is a deadly disease and is classified as a ‘Listed’ disease by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) – alongside diseases such as Anthrax, Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), Foot and mouth disease, rabies, sheep pox, swine fever, avian influenza, West Nile fever, scrapie, fowl cholera, bovine tuberculosis and myxomatosis.
“Infectious Salmon Anaemia threatens wild fisheries around the world and the communities whose livelihood depend on those fish” said Erich Pica, President of Friends of the Earth US. “ISA infections in Chile cost the industry around two billion dollars. A similar infection in Canada and the U.S. could be the last blow to wild Atlantic salmon populations and bring a collapse in wild salmon fisheries.”
The December 19 letter urged FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg to release all health data on AquaBounty’s GE salmon and to suspend any approval actions until all the data is disclosed and the public has an opportunity to review the data. Additionally, the coalition asked the FDA to conduct a full environmental impact statement that includes review of the effect of fish diseases, like ISA, on wild fish populations that might come into contact with the AquaBounty fish. Currently, the FDA has only performed a less comprehensive environmental risk assessment.
This news comes on the heels of a Senate subcommittee hearing held last Thursday on the environmental risks of GE fish, the first hearing of its kind in Congress.
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Obama administration ‘bailed out’ GM salmon firm
By Suzanne Goldberg
The Guardian, UK
October 18, 2011
Campaigners say $500,000 grant was made to AquaBounty despite evidence that the firm could soon run out of cash
The Obama administration awarded a coveted research grant to a financially strapped company working to put genetically modified (GM) salmon on American dinner tables, overlooking disclosures that the firm could run out of cash in early 2012, it has emerged.
Campaigners say the $500,000 grant to AquaBounty amounts to a bail-out for the firm’s main investor, the business tycoon and former economics minister of Georgia, Kakha Bendukidze. They are also comparing it to the Solyndra controversy, which saw a solar company go bankrupt after receiving government loan guarantees.
“Certainly this does have shades of Solyndra. We have seen this company’s stock plummeting for months and months – years actually – and what does the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) do but give this company money?”, said Colin O’Neil, a policy analyst at the Centre for Food Safety, which opposes GM salmon.
“This is research that any public university or independent institution could be doing, so why is the USDA funding this interested company to do it?” he said.
The grant, awarded last month, comes at a critical juncture for AquaBounty.
Thursday, September 8, 2011
Murkowski to push ban on ‘frankenfish’
September 08, 2011
JUNEAU, Alaska - U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski plans to offer an amendment that would ban genetically modified fish.
Murkowski’s office says the issue of so-called “frankenfish” came up during a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing Wednesday. Murkowski urged the committee to impose a ban on genetically modified fish when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s budget came up. But her office says she agreed, after discussions with Democrats on the committee, to wait to push a ban until an agriculture-related appropriations bill went to the Senate floor.
Her spokesman says Murkowski plans to do that in the form of an amendment.
Alaska’s congressional delegation has been pushing for a ban, seeing genetically modified fish as a potential harm to wild fish - and particularly salmon - populations.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
House moves to bar genetically modified salmon
By Mary Clare Jalonick
June 15, 2011
WASHINGTON — The House voted Wednesday to prohibit the Food and Drug Administration from approving genetically modified salmon for human consumption.
The FDA is set to decide this year whether to approve the modified fish, which grows twice as fast as the natural variety. The FDA said last year that the fish appears to be safe to eat but an agency advisory panel said more studies may be needed before it is served on the nation’s dinner tables.
If the salmon is approved, it would be the first time the government allowed such modified animals to be marketed for human consumption. It was created by a Massachusetts company, AquaBounty, which says its fish is safe and environmentally sustainable.
Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, offered an amendment to a farm spending bill late Wednesday that would prohibit the FDA from spending money to approve AquaBounty’s application. The amendment was approved by voice vote.
Sunday, February 6, 2011
Alaska Sens. introduce ‘Frankenfish’ ban
By Jonathan Grass
February 02, 2011
U.S. Senators Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) formally reintroduced legislation to the 112th Congress to ban genetically engineered salmon.
The senators included a companion bill that would require labeling the fish as such in the event they are allowed on the shelves.
Such salmon, which have been dubbed “Frankenfish,” were proposed by AquaBounty Technologies and are currently under consideration by the Food and Drug Administration. AquaBounty proposes to produce a hybrid Atlantic salmon modified with a Chinook salmon growth gene and an antifreeze gene from an ocean pout.
“Frankenfish threatens our wild stocks, their habitat, our food safety, and would bring economic harm to Alaska’s wild salmon fishermen,” Begich said in a press release. “Genetically-modified salmon, the first such hybrid to be considered for human consumption, is risky, unprecedented and unnecessary.”
“I am strongly opposed to the FDA approval of genetically engineered salmon. It is completely irresponsible for the FDA to even consider this action without evaluating the impacts on Alaska’s wild salmon fisheries,” Murkowski stated in a release. “The FDA has not studied the environmental effects, let alone the economic impacts on the salmon and seafood markets that would result from approval.”
They originally entered the bill during the last Congressional session with Begich sponsoring and Murkowski co-sponsoring. The session ended before the bill could be decided.