FDA Gets Warning About Frankenfish Surprises

Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, put the US Food and Drug Administration on notice that any changes to the agency’s policy regarding the AquaBounty proposal to sell genetically modified salmon must include ample time for public debate.

“Americans shouldn’t have to wonder if the seafood on their plate comes from the ocean or a test tube,” Begich said in a statement released this past week.

He noted that last Dec. 26 the federal agency released the draft environmental assessment and preliminary finding of no significant impact regarding the AquaBountry proposal to sell genetically modified salmon.

“Release of this decision came as an unwelcome present in the midst of last year’s holiday season and at a time when Americans were more focused on their families than on anticipating such a major policy decision,” Begich said Dec. 5. “I wanted to put the FDA on notice that I would not welcome a similar announcement as a surprise during the upcoming holiday season.”

Begich said recent news about Canada’s approval of the export of genetically engineered salmon roe has renewed concerns that the FDA is poised to announce approval of genetically modified salmon for human consumption.

In his Dec. 3 letter to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, Begich said he continues to have serious concerns about the AquaBounty proposal and the FDA review process.

The FDA review is limited to the proposed facilities in Canada and Panama, and it ignores the implications for the wider application of this technology that is anticipated to occur following this precedent-setting action, Begich told Hamburg.

“I have introduced legislation in the 113th Congress that seeks a more comprehensive environmental review of this proposal and requires labeling of GE products so US consumers can be confident that they are eating fresh, health seafood like Alaska salmon and not some type of genetically modified “Frankenfish.”