Murkowski drops bid to block FDA nominee over genetically modified salmon

WASHINGTON -- Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski has dropped her efforts to block the nomination of a new commissioner for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, citing favorable action by the agency on genetically engineered salmon.

Murkowski, a Republican, in November put a hold on the nomination of Dr. Robert Califf to head the FDA after the agency's approval of sales of genetically engineered salmon from AquaBounty Technologies.

The farm-raised fish would be Atlantic salmon engineered with a chinook salmon growth hormone gene that makes it grow twice as fast as other farm-raised salmon. It could be several years before genetically modified fish make it to market in the U.S.

In December, Murkowski was able to insert a provision in the omnibus spending bill blocking the FDA from allowing the fish to be sold in the U.S. until it publishes labeling guidelines. The FDA had not planned to require producers to note on store labels that fish is genetically modified.

Since placing the hold on Califf's nomination, "I have been working closely with the FDA to develop labeling guidelines, and I have received the assurances I need that the FDA is taking this matter seriously," Murkowski said in a statement Thursday. As a result, she said, she will end her efforts to block his nomination.

Erica Martinson

Erica Martinson is Alaska Dispatch News' Washington, DC reporter, and she covers the legislation, regulation and litigation that impact the Last Frontier.  Erica came to ADN after years as a reporter covering energy at POLITICO. Before that, she covered environmental policy at a DC trade publication and worked at several New York dailies.