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Engineered fish are harmful to our state's salmon industry

Posted: January 11, 2013 - 1:03am

The following editorial first ran Jan. 4.

The new year is beginning with an old debate over genetically engineered salmon.

Last month, the Food and Drug Administration released an environmental assessment of the AquaAdvantage salmon, a genetically engineered fish that grows twice as fast as its wild counterparts. The assessment said the fish is unlikely to harm the environment, and the ruling is the first step toward clearing the fish for human consumption.

The Kodiak Daily Mirror maintains its opposition to genetically engineered salmon and urges Congress to mandate labeling that identifies engineered animal food products.

Our objection is not based upon fears of a Jurassic Park-like escape of engineered fish; it is based upon our desire for a strong and stable Alaska salmon industry.

Without proper labeling, consumers have no easy way to determine whether a fish in the market is engineered or wild.

You should have the right to choose whether you buy frankenfish or wild Alaska salmon. Without proper labeling, you may not have that choice.

That uncertainty can only harm the market for salmon. The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute has long promoted the “wild” aspect of Alaska salmon, and anything that conflicts with the “wild” designation can only harm salmon sales. The trend toward natural and local foods will only grow in the future, and conflicting messages about salmon will hurt Alaska’s product.

Already, Alaska must compete with farmed salmon, which drives down prices and hurts the pocketbooks of Alaska fishermen.

Fears about contaminating Alaska’s wild stocks are overrated. The real fear should be what happens if the genetically modified fish is a success.

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