Bill rider holds GE salmon at bay

This GE fish, branded AquAdvantage, is designed to grow faster in fish farms. (Photo by AquaBounty Technologies)

Federal regulators have already approved a genetically engineered salmon for human consumption. One reason it’s not for sale in the U.S.: A few short paragraphs that have hitched a ride on a congressional spending bill.

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Regulators say GE salmon can’t be sold until the FDA publishes final labeling guidelines, and the agency hasn’t.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski has again inserted that rider in the agriculture spending bill, which would continue the restriction for another year. The bill cleared the Appropriations Committee this week. Murkowski told the committee the labeling has to be mandatory.

“Instead, right now, labeling is voluntary, and if you think any manufacturer of ‘frankenfish’ is going to voluntarily put that on the label of that fish, you’re not thinking straight,” Murkowski said.

In Panama, a company called AquaBounty is growing engineered salmon from eggs that are fertilized with genetically altered milt in Canada. The product is designed as a fast-grower for fish-farming.

In 2015, the FDA ruled the fish is safe for human consumption.

Murkowski’s rider also said the acceptable market name for the AquaBounty fish has to include the terms “genetically engineered” or “GE.”

Murkowski has filed a separate GE salmon labeling bill.

“If families are going to serve this, then I think they deserve to know that what you’re eating is not the wild-caught salmon,” Murkowski said.

Mandatory labeling for genetically modified organisms is controversial in Congress. Many farm-state lawmakers say there’s no scientific basis to label GMO foods differently, and they maintain it will erode public confidence in GMO crops.

Murkowski said a genetically engineered fish is different.

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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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