Genetically engineered salmon could be coming
Months after Washington voters rejected an initiative requiring the labeling of genetically modified foods, lawmakers are reviving the GMO debate in Olympia.
Lawmakers heard a bill on Friday that would require labeling genetically engineered salmon for sale, even though federal regulators have not yet approved any genetically modified animals for food.
“Salmon is such an ingrained item here,” said Rep. Cary Condotta, who is sponsoring House Bill 2143. “We label farmed vs. fresh caught (fish.) Why wouldn’t we label transgenic fish? It just makes sense.”
The bill also would prohibit genetically engineered fish with fins from being produced in state waters.
Currently, there are no federal or state requirements for genetically engineered foods to be labeled.
The Washington Farm Bureau, Washington Fish Growers Association, Washington Association of Wheat Growers and others spoke against the bill. Some said the bill wasn’t necessary, because state law already prohibits the use of transgenic fish in aquaculture.
Others noted that voters have already spoken — and rejected — a mandate to labeling of GMO foods. Efforts to require labeling in Washington failed in November, when voters rejected Initiative 522 by 51 to 49 percent.
Those who spoke in favor of the bill at Friday’s hearing worried about the impact on the state’s native salmon populations.
If FDA regulators clear the fast-growing salmon, it would be the first genetically altered animal approved for human consumption in the U.S.
AquaBounty Technologies, which produces the so-called AquAdvantage Salmon, has said the fish is safe, that they will be grown as sterile, all-female populations in land-based facilities and they won’t pose a threat to wild salmon populations.
The FDA has concluded that the salmon was as safe to eat as the traditional variety and that the fish “will not have any significant impacts on the quality of the human environment.”
The agency is taking public comments through Jan. 30.