Two state representatives opposed to any federal government approval of the sale and consumption of genetically-modified salmon plan bills aimed at banning cultivation of genetically-modified fish in Alaskan waters and demanding strict labeling practices for farmed or genetically-modified fish.
Reps. Bob Miller and Scott Kawasaki, both Fairbanks Democrats, are on the House Fisheries Committee.
“Alaska’s rural communities have depended on a commercial and subsistence harvest of wild Alaskan salmon for centuries,” Kawasaki said in a prepared release Monday. “These genetically modified salmon are a threat to natural salmon and we don’t want a failed science project in Alaskan waters.”
Alaska’s congressional delegation is working closely with the FDA and the Alaska Legislature on the issue in Washington, D.C.
U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, an Anchorage Democrat, has lead the fight against genetically modified fish, and recently introduced a bill for the upcoming session. Rep. Don Young, a Fort Yukon Republican, has introduced a similar bill in the House.
Kawasaki and Miller said they intend to introduce a series of bills in response to hearings by the FDA on a proposal by AquaBounty Technologies to produce hybrid Atlantic salmon modified with a Chinook salmon growth gene and a gene from an ocean eel. The fish could grow twice as fast as wild salmon.
They say the bills will halt enactment of laws that will harm the Alaskan seafood industry and could diminish wild Alaskan salmon stocks. One bill, sponsored by Miller, would require all genetically modified and farmed fish in Alaska be conspicuously labeled for the consumer. Alaska was one of the first states to pass legislation in 2005 for labeling. The bill would strengthen existing language and ensure that all fish are labeled, the press release states. A second bill will prohibit cultivation of genetically modified species in Alaskan waters.
“When Alaskans want to spend their hard-earned cash on an American car — Ford, Chevy, GM is right on the bumper and you know what you’re getting,” Miller said. “This offers the same protection.”
Fisheries organizations, environmental groups and businesses, including the Alaska Marine Conservation Council and the Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Association, have cautioned that escapees from fish farms, which are typically treated with chemicals and antibiotics, may pose threats to natural species.
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