FDA To Announce Decision On Genetically Modified Salmon

Alaska’s Congressional delegation is bracing for an FDA decision on genetically modified salmon and Sen. Mark Begich has asked the head of the agency not to exploit the holiday season to release what’s expected to be an unpopular report.

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At issue is a U.S.  company’s plan to create Atlantic salmon eggs for fish farms that include a Chinook salmon gene.

AquaBounty hopes to produce fish that grow to market size in half the time – Begich calls it Frankenfish.

“FDA has never approved anything of this nature, which is basically cloning, and from that perspective I don’t think they’re prepared to understand the potential long-term impacts,” Begich said.

Last year, on the day after Christmas, the FDA officially announced its initial ruling in favor of gene-modified salmon.

Begich says it’s like they were trying to slip something by when Americans weren’t looking. An FDA spokeswoman, though, says they publish documents when they’re complete. In a letter last week, Begich asked that they avoid such surprises this season, and he says they assured him the document isn’t coming soon.

“At least they’ve responded, which is a good sign that they recognize how important this issues is and they can’t rush it through at the end of the year because they want to,” Begich said.

Nearly 38,000 people wrote comments to the FDA about AquaBounty’s plan. Most were against it. Begich, like Alaska fisherman, says the modified salmon could escape and damage the state’s wild stocks, and he says they’d hurt Alaska salmon in the marketplace.

AquaBounty says its fish will be sterile and reared inland, in Panama, so that they can’t escape and harm natural populations. Canada last month cleared the firm to produce genetically modified salmon eggs for commercial use at its hatchery on Prince Edward Island.

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Liz Ruskin covers Alaska issues in Washington as the network's D.C. correspondent. She was born in Anchorage and is a West High grad. She has degrees from the University of Washington and the University of Missouri School of Journalism in Columbia. She previously worked at the Homer News, the Anchorage Daily News and the Washington bureau of McClatchy Newspapers. She also freelanced for several years from the U.K. and Japan, in print and radio. Liz has been APRN’s Washington, D.C. correspondent since October 2013. She's @lruskin on Twitter. She welcomes your news tips at lruskin (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  | About Liz

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