JUNEAU — A U.S. Senate committee on Thursday narrowly agreed to add to a spending bill language that would require that genetically modified salmon be labeled.
The amendment was offered during a Senate Appropriations meeting by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska. It passed on a 15-14 vote. Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, was a co-sponsor and also voted in support.
Members of Alaska’s congressional delegation, as well as the state Legislature, have opposed any effort by the Food and Drug Administration that would clear the way for the approval of a genetically engineered salmon for human consumption. FDA released a draft assessment last year, finding that approval of the salmon, also known as “Frankenfish,” would not jeopardize the continued existence of U.S. populations of Atlantic salmon or adversely affect their critical habitat.
An FDA spokeswoman said Thursday that there is no timeline for when a final decision might be released.
Murkowski said the genetic engineering, which would allow the fish to grow twice as fast as normal, is “messing with Mother Nature in a very serious and big way.”
Past efforts, such as trying to pull funding from FDA for approval of the fish, were unsuccessful, she said. If the fish is approved for human consumption, Murkowski said, at a minimum, it should be labeled. It’s a view that Begich has echoed.
The amendment would provide $150,000 for labeling.
Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., who supported the amendment, said the public has a right to know what it’s eating. He said he thinks it would be impossible to ensure that the genetically modified fish would remain segregated from wild populations.