Bioengineered salmon: State bill seeks clear label

by jeeg 7. January 2011 22:38

Assemblyman Jared Huffman isn't taking any chances. If the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves a bid to allow the human consumption of genetically engineered Atlantic salmon, the San Rafael Democrat wants every Californian to know what he or she is getting at the checkout aisle.

Consumers have the right to know if their food comes from the wild or was bioengineered, said Huffman, who introduced AB88 on Thursday to require the salmon, which many environmentalists call "Frankenfish," to be clearly labeled.

"This is not a new issue. Genetically engineered food has been a controversy for a long time," he said.

The FDA has yet to decide whether to legalize salmon made by AquaBounty Technologies Inc. The Massachusetts company has been experimenting for 15 years with salmon growth hormone genes and DNA to create a salmon that grows quickly in a farm environment. The FDA closed its two-month public comment period in November and is nearing its final review.

If the fish is approved, it would be the first genetically engineered animal that is legal for humans to eat.

"We don't think it's premature," said Rebecca Spector, West Coast director of the Center for Food Safety and co-sponsor of the bill. "We want to send a message to the FDA that Californians don't want bioengineered salmon, or at least want it to be labeled."

Opponents and environmentalists fear that the bioengineered salmon could ruin the species if it bred with wild salmon, which they say is inevitable. There is also concern that the fish could spread disease in humans.

Ron Stotish, the chief executive officer for AquaBounty, has told The Chronicle that as long as the "seas are fished to the verge of extinction, we have an ethical obligation to use every tool in our toolbox to explore alternatives to meet demand for seafood."

The bill is scheduled to go to committee hearings in the spring.


Stacy Finz , SF Chronicle   



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