Closing The Gate: Big Fish Story

January 2, 2016 02:18 AM

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski says she is “furious” about the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) recent decision to allow genetically-engineered (GE) salmon to be sold for human consumption. Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska and an ardent opponent of what she calls “frankenfish,” says she will continue to push for mandatory labeling.

The FDA’s decision on GE salmon comes after 20 years of deliberation over the safety of GE food for humans and the environment. Now, AquaBounty, a small company with 21 employees, is free to raise and sell their fish in stores—if retailers will accept the product.

GE salmon is the first “animal” produced with biotechnology to gain approval. That suggests we will soon see similar technology available for the production of beef, pork and dairy products, which would dramatically raise the stakes for GE technology and undoubtedly fuel a prolonged debate.

After the FDA approval, AquaBounty CEO Ronald Stotish released a statement, saying: “AquAdvantage Salmon is a game-changer that brings healthy and nutritious food to consumers in an environmentally-responsible manner.”

The fish in question is a GE Atlantic salmon with a growth hormone-regulating gene from a Pacific Chinook salmon. The GE salmon can reach market weight in about half the time.

Beyond the environmental concerns, opponents also criticize FDA for not requiring GE salmon to be labeled as such. However, FDA says it can only require labels “if there is a material difference—such as a different nutritional profile—between the GE product and its non-GE counterpart. In the case of the AquAdvantage Salmon, FDA did not find any such differences.”

Whether AquaBounty’s GE salmon can become a commercial success remains in doubt, but the long-term challenge for GE protein will be convincing consumers to accept the safety of the science and the benefits it can provide for both humans and the environment.

Working Together To Serve Cattlemen

At press time Farm Journal Media announced the purchase of Vance Publishing’s agricultural properties, including Drovers/CattleNetwork. That news rocked the ag media world, but more importantly, it will provide America’s beef producers an even more comprehensive package of industry coverage. The deal brings together the largest and most experienced team of beef industry reporters and editors, while providing them access to the deep resources of Farm Journal Media. 

For cattlemen, we’re committed to continuing the rich heritage of news, markets and industry analysis supplied through the platforms that make Farm Journal Media the biggest megaphone in American agriculture—print, broadcast, mobile and digital. The merger joins the longest continuously published agriculture titles, Farm Journal, est. 1877, and Drovers, est. 1873.

Prior to joining Beef Today in 2013, I had the privilege of working for Drovers for 29 years, 21 as editor. Now I welcome the opportunity to work with many of my old colleagues to deliver to you the most comprehensive and useful beef industry news and information.  As we work together on that mission, I want you to know our commitment to serving our audience—America’s farmers and ranchers—remains steadfast. 

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