Senate Panel Approves Labeling for GM Salmon

A U.S. Senate panel today moved to require labeling for genetically modified salmon, if it’s approved for sale in this country.

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Sen. Lisa Murkowski told the Senate Appropriations Committee she hopes the FDA never allows genetically modified salmon to reach supermarket shelves.

“But we haven’t been able to get the FDA able to slow down off their track of approval,” she said.

So, Murkowski says, they should at least require “that they put on the package of fish: This is a genetically modified salmon.”

But mandatory labeling repels senators from farm states, who fear it’ll lead to labeling of GM crops. Sen. Mike Johanns of Nebraska defended genetically modified food at the hearing, saying it can help sustain the world’s ever- growing population.  Johanns says labeling would be a compliance nightmare, with consumers footing the bill.

“There’s a cost to that, for no basis in science,” he said.

The company that wants to produce the AquAdvantage salmon says its farmed fish would be just like a conventional Atlantic salmon. Sen. Mark Begich, who co-sponsored Murkowski’s labeling amendment, says the company should just be upfront with consumers.

“If their fish product is so good, then tell us,” he said. “That’s all we’re asking.”

Appropriations Committee passed the amendment on a voice vote with only one audible “nay.” Still, it’s a long way from law. Alaska’s delegation to Congress has fought to require labeling in the past, only to see it stripped out of the final legislation. The bill next goes to the full Senate.

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Liz Ruskin covers Alaska’s congressional delegation, federal agency decisions that shape life in the 49th state, money in politics and elections. She has deep roots in Alaska and this is her third stint in Washington, a city she has grown to love.

She was born in Anchorage and is a West High graduate. She studied political science at the University of Washington and has an M.A. in journalism from the University of Missouri in Columbia. During graduate school, she moved to Washington to intern as a D.C. correspondent. But for her first real journalism job, she moved back to Alaska to work at the Homer News. She was there for three years before taking a job at the Anchorage Daily News. Over the course of nine years in Anchorage, she covered City Hall, courts, state politics, and Native and rural affairs.

Then, in April 2001, she moved back to Washington to work in McClatchy Newspaper’s D.C. bureau as a correspondent for the Anchorage paper. She stayed in the position for five years.

She took a year off for a journalism fellowship at the University of Colorado in Boulder, then freelanced for several years from the U.K. and Japan, in print and radio.

When a vacancy occurred in APRN’s one-person Washington bureau, she jumped at the opportunity. Liz has been APRN’s Washington, D.C. correspondent since October 2013.

lruskin (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  | About Liz