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Alaska Beat

Alaska Congressional delegation unites in opposition to 'frankenfish'

  • Author: Craig Medred
  • Updated: September 27, 2016
  • Published July 15, 2011

What happens when you add an extra copy of the king salmon growth gene to an Atlantic salmon, toss in a gene from an eel-like fish called an ocean pout? You've got a new fishlike thing that grows twice as fast as salmon that might become the first genetically engineered product approved by the Food and Drug Administration for human consumption.

But not if Alaska U.S. Rep. Don Young and Sens. Mark Begich and Lisa Murkowski have their way. The Alaska Congressional delegation, along with a broad spectrum of other members of Congress, is fighting to keep "frankenfish" from showing up in supermarkets around the country.

In a letter to FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg, the congressmen criticize the assessment the FDA is using to review the frankenfish for human consumption. Begich added that the FDA "hasn't considered all of the potential negative impacts of genetically-altered fish and the strong opposition in Congress to approving something that could decimate wild salmon populations. Recent scientific evidence shows that if genetically-modified salmon escape, they could...potentially [destroy] the genetic adaptations that have allowed fish to thrive for millennia."

Supporters of frankenfish (or at least critics of the focus of the debate in Congress like Reason Magazine's Ronald Bailey) opine that special interest groups are pushing Young, Begich and Murkowski to ignore science that "suggests that the biotech salmon pose no health risks to people."

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