Patt Morrison for August 2, 2011

Senators urge FDA to halt consideration of genetically engineered “frankenfish” as a food

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Gracie Films/20th Century Fox Television

Blinky, the lovable mutant fish of "The Simpsons" fame.

Eight senators call them “frankenfish” and are asking the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to halt its approval process for the genetically engineered salmon—an approval the could land the first GE animal on a dinner plate near you. The fish, produced by AquaBounty Technologies, come from embryos that have been sterilized in Canada before being shipped to a land-based facility in Panama, where the males are exposed to estrogen, sex-reversed and sterilized to prevent further breeding. The senators’ opposition is far-reaching: concerns about public health for consumers; GE salmon escaping and mating with or out-competing other fish in the sea; a lack of transparency in the review process; and a hit to local economies in those Senators’ home states, where fish are a vital component. There is no timeline for the FDA to complete its environmental impact assessment on the salmon, which it started last September, even though AquaBounty brought its product before the organization 15 years ago. Are these genetically modified fish an answer to humans’ unsustainable appetite for seafood or a serious threat to a delicate ecosystem? And would approval of GE salmon open the floodgates to other GE animals for human consumption?

Guests:

Senator Mike Begich (D-AK), one of eight senators who sent a letter to the FDA asking it to "immediately cease" consideration of GE salmon, a product brought before the agency by AquaBounty Technologies 15 years ago

Alison Van Eenennaam, animal science researcher at UC Davis; she served on the FDA committee that reviewed AquaBounty salmon (The veterinary medicine advisory committee) and deemed it as safe for consumption as regular salmon


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