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US House Vote Blocks FDA Approval of Genetically Engineered Salmon

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Posted June 20, 2011 by Damien Gillis in Politics
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From SustainableBusiness.com – June 20, 2011

The US House of Representatives last week passed an amendment that
blocks the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from approving genetically
engineered (GE) salmon – the first genetically engineered animal
intended for human consumption.

During full floor debate of the Fiscal Year 2012 Agriculture and FDA
appropriations bill, members of the House passed an amendment offered by
Reps. Don Young (R-AK) and Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) to prohibit use of FDA
funds to approve any application for approval of genetically engineered
salmon.

The full appropriations bill, The Agriculture, Rural Development, Food
and Drug Administration and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R.
2112), passed on Thursday by a 217-203 vote.

The Center for Food Safety (CFS) applauded passage of the amendment:

“We thank members of the House for stepping in to correct FDA’s
misguided decision to go ahead with this approval process which fails to
take into account a plethora of economic, human health, environmental
and animal welfare concerns,” says Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director
of the Center for Food Safety. “Any decision to approve GE salmon would
be a continuation of the Obama Administration’s illogical biotech
bailout at the expense of American jobs and our fishing economy.”

The FDA currently approves GE animals through its new animal drug law,
yet critics fault the process as failing to require adequate safety
assessments and lacking transparency and public engagement. The decision
to regulate GE animals as animal drugs was announced by FDA in 2009 in
the form of a Guidance to Industry, a non-binding form of regulation.

“We need a robust regulatory system that assesses the full suite of
economic, human health, environmental and animal welfare risks posed by
GE animals and allows for full and open public participation,” adds
Colin O’Neil, Regulatory Policy Analyst for the Center for Food Safety.

In September 2010, more than 40 members of Congress sent letters requesting FDA halt the approval of the long-shelved AquaBounty transgenic salmon.

“The FDA’s hastily completed approval process puts American consumers
and the environment at risk. GE salmon could be devastating to fishing
and coastal communities, our food source, and already depleted wild
salmon populations. The FDA should put the interests and safety of
American families and our ocean resources above special interests,” Rep.
DeFazio said in September.

In February, Senator Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Representative Don Young
(R-Alaska) introduced complimentary legislation that would ban
genetically engineered (GE) fish and require mandatory labeling if
approved.

The two pieces of legislation were endorsed by 67 consumer, worker,
religious and environmental groups, along with commercial, recreational
and subsistence fisheries associations, and food businesses and
retailers.

Those groups include the Center for Food Safety, Ocean Conservancy,
Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development, the Alaska Trollers
Association, Food and Water Watch, the National Cooperative Grocers
Association, Trout Unlimited and the Pacific Coast Federation of
Fishermen’s Associations among others.

Last fall, over 300 environmental, consumer, health, and animal welfare
organizations, along with salmon and fishing groups and associations,
food companies, chefs and restaurants signed joint letters to the FDA opposing
the approval of AquaBounty’s GE salmon. Additionally nearly 400,000
public comments were sent to FDA from citizens demanding the agency
reject this application and require mandatory labeling of this
transgenic salmon should it decide to approve it.

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About the Author

Damien Gillis

Damien Gillis is a Vancouver-based documentary filmmaker with a focus on environmental and social justice issues - especially relating to water, energy, and saving Canada's wild salmon - working with many environmental organizations in BC and around the world. He is the co-founder, along with Rafe Mair, of The Common Sense Canadian, and a board member of both the BC Environmental Network and the Haig-Brown Institute.

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