Legislature(2005 - 2006)CAPITOL 124
03/16/2005 08:30 AM FISHERIES
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* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 25-GENETICALLY MODIFIED FISH 8:34:25 AM CO-CHAIR LEDOUX announced that the first order of business would be SENATE BILL NO. 25, "An Act relating to labeling and identification of genetically modified fish and fish products." 8:34:49 AM SENATOR KIM ELTON, Alaska State Legislature, presented SB 25 to the committee on behalf of himself and Senator Gary Stevens, bill cosponsors. He explained that the bill was a work product of the [Joint Legislative Salmon Industry Task Force], and it was introduced at the end of last session, but didn't pass out of committee. He noted that this session's version of the bill is in the exact same form as last year's version. He said: What it does is it provides that genetically modified [GM] fish that are sold in the State of Alaska at the retail level will have to be [labeled] that it is a GM fish. ... The other name for them is Frankenfish because it involves a modification at the genetic level that can't occur naturally. At present there is only one GM ... fish that is allowed in the marketplace, and that's a glow in the dark aquarium fish, but there is an application pending in front of the [U.S. Food and Drug Association (FDA)] for GM ... Atlantic salmon. There is a U.S./Canadian company that right now is working to establish some salmon farms in Nova Scotia [carrying GM Atlantic salmon]. They would put the Atlantic salmon not only to the marketplace but they would distribute the eggs worldwide to other ... industrial salmon farms. There isn't an awful lot that Alaska can do when it comes to regulating the global trade in [GM] fish, but what this bill does is provide if those GM ... finfish or shellfish are sold in Alaska, the Alaska consumers will know what they're buying. It also has an ancillary benefit that it provides a very bright line between Alaska's wild salmon and industrially produced Atlantic salmon. SENATOR ELTON noted that Aqua Bounty was quoted recently as saying that they expect to get a permit for GM Atlantic salmon within the next year. 8:37:46 AM REPRESENTATIVE WILSON read from the sponsor statement which stated that the European Union, Japan, New Zealand, and Australia already require labeling on food containing GM products. She commented that it was really important for the [Alaska legislature] to pass this bill. SENATOR ELTON noted that those countries make the distinction between GM and non-GM on vegetable products, but not on fish products yet. He said, "At its heart this is a consumer- notification bill." 8:38:48 AM CO-CHAIR THOMAS pointed out that both finfish and shellfish are named on page 4, line 4, but the title only says "fish." He asked if both should be included in the title. SENATOR ELTON responded, "I think in statute elsewhere 'fish' is ... a kind of umbrella term." 8:39:44 AM DENNIS KELSO, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Environmental Studies Department, University of California, Santa Cruz, stated that his research is on the impacts of salmon farming on the wild salmon sector, particularly in Alaska, and on the implications of genetically engineered fish in commercial aquaculture. He said I believe this is an important consumer choice opportunity. Fish are subject to a great deal of research right now with respect to making genetically engineered versions. And the reason is that they're relatively easy to work with; they have a short generation time, the eggs are easy to manipulate, and so there are a number of species that are being worked with. ... The one that's currently proposed for [FDA] approval ... is Atlantic salmon that's basically constructed from genetic material taken from Atlantic salmon, from the ocean pout ... and king salmon, which supplies growth hormone DNA. The claim of the owners of the patent on this fish is that it will reduce the production time for Atlantic salmon in commercial salmon farms by roughly half, the idea being that it would reduce the producers cost and allow them to put more Atlantic fish on the market faster. So the bill before you actually provides consumers a choice by informing them so that they know what kind of production methods they're actually supporting through their purchases. REPRESENTATIVE WILSON asked Dr. Kelso to leave his address so that her office could contact him later. 8:43:02 AM CO-CHAIR LEDOUX closed public testimony. REPRESENTATIVE WILSON moved to report SB 25 out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying zero fiscal notes. There being no objection, SB 25 was reported from House Special Committee on Fisheries.