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New chance for public comment to FDA on genetically modified salmon

The countdown is on to offer public comment to the federal Food and Drug Administration on its environmental assessment conclusion that a fast-growing genetically modified salmon will likely cause no harm to the environment.

The FDA planned to public a notice in the Federal Register on Dec. 26 and said it would accept comment on the agency's draft environmental assessment and preliminary finding of no significant impact through Feb. 24, 2013.

United Fishermen of Alaska, an umbrella group representing 37 commercial fishing organizations, is urging those in the seafood industry to file their views electronically or in written comments to the Division of Dockets Management (HFA-305), Docket number FDA-2011-N-0899, Food and Drug Administration, 5630 Fishers Lane, rm. 1061, Rockville, ND 20852.

Electronic submissions were also being accepted at http://www.regulations.gov once the notice was published in the Federal Register.

The pre-release of the Federal Register notice is online at https://s3.amazonaws.com/public-inspection.federalregister.gov/2012-31118.pdf

Many Alaskans engaged commercial, sport and subsistence fisheries view the genetically modified product proposed by Massachusetts-based Aquabounty as a threat to wild fisheries. The FDA document states that the genetically modified fish appears to be safe to eat and that it is unlikely to harm wild salmon.

AquaAdvantage salmon, as the genetically modified fish is known, is an Atlantic salmon with an extra growth hormone gene from Chinook salmon.

Alaska's congressional delegation is united in its opposition to the FDA's draft environmental assessment, which is clearing the way for approval of the genetically modified fish for human consumption.

Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, introduced legislation in November 2010 to stop the FDA from approving genetically modified fish. Last November, Begich celebrated Halloween by handing on "no Frankenfish" buttons to fellow senators.

"I've said from the beginning that Frankenfish poses a grave threat to Alaska's wild salmon stocks, and today's decision by the FDA is foolish and disturbing," Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, said on Dec. 21. "As the final process moves forward, I will continue the fight with the Alaska congressional delegation to ensure that this product never hits the market."

Young said he planned to reintroduce legislation that will at a bare minimum require genetically engineered salmon to be labeled to ensure that the public knows what they are purchasing at the grocery store and feeding their families.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski said in a video released by her office that she does not believe the FDA should approve these fish.

This article was originally published in The Cordova Times and is reprinted here with permission. Reach Margaret Bauman at mbauman(at)thecordovatimes.com.