Legislation calling for clear labeling of genetically engineered salmon is now back before the U.S. Senate, in a continuing effort by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, to ensure that consumers are aware the product is not wild Alaska fish.
“It is absolutely essential that consumers be fully informed about what they are buying and feeding their families – especially when it comes to purchasing a genetically engineered salmon product,” Murkowski said, as she reintroduced the Genetically Engineered Salmon Labeling Act in early June.
The bill requiring that any genetically engineered salmon products sold in the United States are clearly labeled “genetically engineered” in the market name would apply to the entire lineage of salmon modified via recombinant DNA technology.
The Senate bill is co-sponsored by Sens. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore. On the House side, Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, introduced HR 270, the Genetically Engineered Salmon Labeling Act, in January,
Members of Congress from the Pacific Northwest began introducing legislation calling for clear labeling of genetically altered salmon in 2016.
Several tons of the genetically engineered fish from AquaBounty Technologies Inc., went on the market in late May, with Philadelphia-based seafood distributor Samuels and Son Seafood being the only firm, according to Associated Press reports, so far selling the fish, in Midwest and East coast areas where labeling as genetically engineered is not required.
Samuels and Son also markets a wide range of wild salmon from Alaska, the Pacific Northwest and Canada.
“As an Alaskan who knows the tremendous benefits of eating healthy, wild Alaska salmon, it’s imperative that Americans have the information to make that choice,” Murkowski said. “When you splice DNA from another animal and combine it with farmed salmon, you are essentially creating a new species, and I have serious concerns with that. If we are going to allow this fake fish to be sold in stores, there must be clear labeling. We owe it to American consumers to ensure that any labeling of GE salmon is clear, effective, and understandable.”
A major food service company, Aramark, committed in January to not sell genetically engineered salmon. “Avoiding potential impacts to wild salmon populations and indigenous communities, whose livelihoods are deeply connected to and often dependent upon this vital resource, is core to our company’s commitment to making a positive impact on people and the planet,” Aramark representatives said.
Similar statements also came from other major food service firms, including Sodexo and grocery retailers including Costco, Kroger, Walmart and Whole Foods, who said they don’t sell GE salmon products.
AquaBounty notes on its website that its northeast Indiana farm is capable of raising 1,200 metric tons of salmon annually. The company announced on May 10 that it had sold out its first commercial-scale harvest of GE Atlantic salmon from the Indiana farm. Its fish are raised in land-based recirculating aquaculture systems in Albany, Indiana and in Rollo Bay, Prince Edward Island, Canada, where the feeding cycle and growing environment are optimized, allowing AquaBounty to produce up to 70% more fresh salmon annually compared to conventional Atlantic salmon grown in the same period under the same conditions, the company said.
AquaBounty contends that by locating their operations on land and following strict bio-security measures, they are helping to protect wild salmon populations.