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Alaska Senator Continues to Oppose AquaBounty™ Salmon


In a blatant display of protectionism for a local industry, Senator Lisa Murkowski intends to continue blocking the commercial release of AquaBounty ™ GM Atlantic Salmon. The company that developed the fast-growing strain has spent two decades to obtain FDA approval which was granted in 2015. The Agency with oversight over food declared that the fish is safe to eat and as nutritious as wild Atlantic salmon. The GM variety grows at twice the rate of wild salmon with obvious benefits in terms of feed conversion efficiency and hence sustainability.

Following the FDA determination, Senator Murkowski used her position to impose an additional delaying hurdle requiring an evaluation of consumer-labeling. Now that this issue has been resolved, Senator Murkowski intends to add a rider to a bill to require a “label comprehension study” normally applied to pharmaceutical products but not to food. Further delay would necessitate destruction of salmon elvers already placed in an approved land-locked aquaculture facility in Indiana.

The commercialization of AquaBounty™ Atlantic Salmon would in no way compete with Pacific coast salmon species since collectively natural fisheries cannot supply demand. It is estimated that a high proportion of Atlantic Salmon consumed in the U.S. is imported from Norway and Chile.

From a livestock perspective, the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard enacted in 2016 should prevail in this case and Aqua Bounty should be allowed to produce and market their product having complied with all relevant regulations imposed by the FDA, in addition to federal and state agencies.

Apart from the parochial political aspect of opposition to AquaBounty™, a dangerous precedent would be created if Senator Murkowski were to be successful in her efforts to preserve the perceived interests of her constituents. Future GM developments that could potentially enhance food production would be delayed or even prevented by the actions of a single legislator in acting in defiance of a national standard.