The FDA has announced it is set to approve genetically engineered salmon for consumption.
A New Jersey congressman is urging the federal government to reconsider the likely approval of genetically engineered salmon.
Last week, the Food and Drug Administration noted that the agency will approve the fish for human consumption and not require special labeling indicating the fish is genetically engineered.
In the wake of that tentative decision, Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Health Subcommittee, penned a letter to FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg.
In the letter, he asks her to more closely investigate the health and environmental consequences of approving a genetically engineered animal for human consumption.
“Putting genetically modified salmon in grocery stores would open up the marketplace for a new industry of genetically altered animals on dinner plates,” Pallone stated in a press release. “Before we cross this boundary, I want to see the FDA has done a thorough review of these genetically altered products. Up until this point I don’t believe FDA’s review has been comprehensive enough to move forward with the approval process.”
The fish in question is basically a North Atlantic salmon with a growth hormone from the bigger Chinook salmon, and a genetic “on-switch” from a critter known as an ocean or eel pout.
In considering the creature’s approval, the FDA evaluated the fish as a veterinary medicine, a regulatory framework designed for reviewing the safety of drugs and feed for animal consumption. Pallone urged the FDA to reconsider this approval track.
“The FDA needs to evaluate whether this particular genetically engineered salmon and all further genetically engineered animals warrant approval through a framework that uses studies and data that support its safety for human consumption,” Pallone wrote in his letter.
How the animal would be greeted in California is another matter.
The state has a ban on live genetically engineered fish [PDF]. The fish are not allowed to be imported, transported or possessed within the state.
However, what the law says in regards to the sale, import or possession of dead genetically engineered fish or flesh are another matter.
Officials from the Department of Fish and Game were unable to provide a clear answer, suggesting they couldn’t see why the flesh couldn’t be sold. They punted the question to the attorney general’s office.
That office was also unable, or unwilling, to answer the question.
“The FDA sets out labeling requirements and is currently considering various labeling requirements,” wrote Rebecca MacLaren, spokeswoman for the attorney general. “After the FDA makes a decision, it will be possible to comment on state regulation or enforcement.”
When pressed about whether the flesh was legal, irrespective of the FDA’s decision on labeling, MacLaren punted the question to the Department of Food and Agriculture.
The Department of Food and Agriculture could not be reached for comment.