November 19, 2015 - Issue: Vol. 161, No. 171 — Daily Edition114th Congress (2015 - 2016) - 1st Session
AQUADVANTAGE SALMON; Congressional Record Vol. 161, No. 171
(Senate - November 19, 2015)
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[Pages S8137-S8138] From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov] AQUADVANTAGE SALMON Ms. MURKOWSKI. Mr. President, I have come to the floor this afternoon to speak on an energy-related topic--one that I think the Presiding Officer and many will have interest in--and that is the issue of innovation within the energy sector. Before I speak on energy, I wish to bring up an issue that has come about today with the announcement coming out of the Food and Drug Administration that they have approved an application for what they have called AquAdvantage salmon. This is actually quite disturbing news to any of us who care about our wild species of salmon, our healthy wild stocks, and who are proponents of good amounts of fresh seafood in our diets, knowing that nutritionally it is a pretty extraordinary source of omega-3 fatty acids and good-for-you nutrients. [[Page S8138]] We have been trying to get the FDA to make good on their commitment to make sure that pregnant women and nursing mothers know and understand the guidelines out there in terms of what is safe to consume when it comes to fish because, again, when we are looking for that good, nutritious food source, it is pretty tough to beat Mother Nature. Yet, that is exactly what this approval from the FDA is trying to do, which is, effectively, not only trying to beat Mother Nature but messing with Mother Nature. Again, as one who believes that the real thing is the best thing for our families, the best thing to serve at the dinner table, I find it very troubling. In fact, I am spitting mad today. I have calmed down a lot since I received this news this morning, but I can tell my colleagues that people back home are going to be mad about this for a long time. For about 5 years now, the FDA has been considering this application for this genetically engineered salmon. Again, they are giving it a pretty nice name, calling it the AquAdvantage, that somehow or another this gives an advantage to the salmon. Well, it does. What it does is allow this genetically engineered fish--I don't even know that I want to call it a fish--this genetically engineered organism to grow twice as fast as any other salmon in the water. So how does it get to grow twice as fast? Well, it doesn't happen naturally. It is not the way Mother Nature orders it. What they do is they start messing with it. This process, which has now been approved by the FDA, is a process that splices genetic material from a Chinook salmon, a king salmon, and it takes that genetic material and it integrates it with a pout fish and an Atlantic salmon. People might know about an Atlantic salmon, a farmed salmon. What is an ocean pout? Let me show my colleagues what an ocean pout is. An ocean pout is basically this eel-type of bottom fish. Those of my colleagues who know their salmon know about the Chinooks, the sockeyes, and the chums, and they know that this isn't anything close to a salmon, whether it is a wild Alaskan salmon or whether it is a farmed salmon. This is an eel. We are taking a splice from this, and we are taking a splice from an Atlantic salmon, and we are basically splicing this with a Chinook salmon. The resulting organism, this company claims, is going to grow to the size of an Alaskan king salmon in a shorter period of time than that found in nature. Freaky. We call this combination ``Frankenfish'' because it is just not right. It is just not right. It disturbs me, quite honestly, that the FDA would sign off on the approval of a genetically engineered animal designed for human consumption. This is the first time ever. The FDA is saying this is going to be safe: We are going to make sure it is safe. We are going to make sure that it doesn't interbreed with the wild stocks, and thus perhaps destroy them. We are going to make sure that it doesn't mix with them so that it doesn't transmit disease. We are going to make sure that it is separated so that it doesn't eat up all of the wild sources available for our Alaskan salmon. They are going to make sure, apparently by doing this, because they are saying that with this approval, these AquAdvantage salmon can only be raised in land-based, contained hatchery tanks in two specific facilities in Canada and in Panama. We should all feel safer, I guess, because it is all going to be in Canada and Panama. There are no other locations under this application in the United States or elsewhere that are authorized to do this. Somehow or other, the FDA says they are going to maintain regulatory oversight over the production and the facilities, and they are going to conduct inspections to confirm that adequate physical containment measures remain in place. They will be working with the Canadian and Panamanian governments to be conducting inspections. Really? Do I feel safer about making sure that our wild and healthy stocks are going to be not infiltrated by the Frankenfish, by these genetically engineered organisms designed for human consumption, designed to grow twice as fast to get to the size of a king salmon, so that a company can derive the benefit of selling more of this fish. Well, I am saying FDA should never have approved this--never have approved this. The fact is that the Alaska delegation, as well as members of other delegations in this body and on the other side, have pounded their fists for quite some time against this measure through the FDA. They know full well how much we object to it. At 7:55 last night my assistant got an email from the FDA saying that commissioner would like to talk to me about some imminent news. By the time the morning came around, the imminent news was already made public. Alaskans were already aware that this approval from FDA had come forth. It was not only me; it is my understanding that the head of the agriculture appropriations subcommittee--I met with him yesterday-- didn't get a heads-up about it. The nominee was before us yesterday in the HELP Committee, and I actually put two questions to him about seafood. There was no heads-up that this was coming our way, just kind of, boom, lay it on the table. I have to tell my colleagues, we have made no bones about the fact that this is wrong not only for Alaska and our wild stocks, it is wrong for our salmon stocks around the country, and it is something I am going to continue to fight. I am not sure as we deal with this news today if we can get the FDA to reverse this. I am going to keep working on it. But at a bare minimum, people around this country need to know what they are serving their families when it comes to seafood. If this is going to be allowed into the markets, if it is going to be allowed on restaurant menus, then it needs to be labeled as such. The FDA has said there will be draft guidance on voluntary labeling indicating whether food has or has not been derived from GE Atlantic salmon. So, basically, if you want to put a label on that says this is a fake fish, a fake salmon, you can go ahead, but you don't have to. It is only voluntary. That is not good enough for this mom. That is not good enough for most who care about what their families are eating. So we are going to continue to press for mandatory labeling if the FDA is going to approve--wrongheadedly, in my mind--this genetically engineered fake fish for human consumption. They darn well better agree that labeling will be required because I am not going to eat it. ____________________