Legislature(2005 - 2006)BELTZ 211
02/08/2005 01:30 PM LABOR & COMMERCE
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|Overview by Greg O’claray, Commissioner, Department of Labor and Workforce Development|
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 25-GENETICALLY MODIFIED FISH 3:02:49 PM CHAIR BUNDE announced SB 25 to be up for consideration. SENATOR KIM ELTON, co-sponsor, said it provides that genetically modified organism (GMO) fish and shellfish are identified on the label. Two companies are trying to use GMO fish in fish farming, which would become available for human consumption. The only GMO fish in the market currently are designed for aquariums. Aqua Bounty, a Canadian firm, has an application in front of the FDA and is pursuing the opportunity to produce the fish in Nova Scotian salmon farms. 3:05:11 PM Alaska has an opportunity to provide for consumer notification at the retail level by labeling. "It will allow the marketers of Alaskan seafood to draw a bright line between wild and natural and industrially produced fish and shellfish." 3:06:01 PM CHAIR BUNDE asked if it's assumed that all GMO fish are farmed fish. 3:06:16 PM SENATOR ELTON answered that it is possible to have a wild GMO fish due to escapement from farms. It's a question of when. He said the only GMO fish are in laboratories at present. 3:07:10 PM MS. DALE KELLY, Executive Director, Alaska Trollers Association, supported SB 25. She read a prepared statement about how labeling food is part of a growing health trend. Farmed Atlantic salmon could become the first approved GMO animal product available for human consumption. 3:09:19 PM She said there are over 100 million acres biotech foods under cultivation. GMO salmon convert food to energy more efficiently than wild and it could mean better profits for farmers and cheaper prices for consumers. Proponents say it is a way to feed the growing world population; but, she wondered, will it harm us and are there hidden costs. She said that antibiotics, growth hormones, coloring additives and genes that make products undesirable to nuisance pests are possible changes that could be added. Without labeling, it would be hard to tell GMO salmon from real fish at the seafood counter and people won't know to ask. 3:12:48 PM MS. KELLY said a lack of data is often sited and the following concerns are echoed repeatedly. 1. There could be an enhanced genetic availability of transgenic fish to absorb environmental toxins, such as mercury, which causes nerve damage. 2. There is an increased risk of unsafe chemical or biological agents entering the food chain through genetically modified organisms. 3. There is an increased risk of allergic reaction due to ingestion of unknown substances. 4. GMO molecules used to enhance traits could retain bioactivity after consumption. 5. There is evidence of antibiotic resistance. 6. Potential generation of prions, disease producing proteins is feared - (mad cow disease). 7. GMO foods might violate some religious or cultural dietary rules. 8. There is a lack of regulation and enforcement of animal biotechnology due to a lack of ethical and regulatory framework. 9. The responsibilities of federal regulatory agencies for regulating animal biotechnology and data collection are unclear and there is no oversight of scientific research and the commercial application of biotechnology. 3:15:22 PM MS. KELLY said she understands there are at least six generations of GMO salmon in the lab in Canada. She admitted that it is fair to say the GMO fish could be beneficial to nutritional attributes in some cases. However, the National Academy of Science has stated this can only be true, 'If the changed products are labeled in order to appeal to targeted consumers and are identifiable to those who might have medical or other reasons to avoid such foods.' She closed by urging the committee again to pass SB 25. 3:16:48 PM DENNIS KELSO, University of California, Santa Cruz, said his research is on the impacts of salmon farming on Alaska's salmon industry and on the effects of them being introduced into commercial markets. 3:17:24 PM He asked why this matters to Alaska and answered: 1. Informed consumers recognize quality of products. 2. Consumers expect access to information about what's in food they eat. 3. Besides the Atlantic salmon that are probably going to be the first GMO fish to be approved for human consumption, there are other GMO fish and shellfish that are in various stages of laboratory development - more than a dozen. 3:21:45 PM He said the trade secrets exemption applies to the cases in Canada and it is not known where the transgenic Atlantic salmon are in their review, but the owner of its patent will probably market them actively. The controversy comes up in the potential increase in production of Atlantic salmon and concerns about impacts on wild salmon from escapes. This is an opportune time to consider what Alaskans value and accept in the marketplace. 3:23:04 PM CHAIR BUNDE said this will not keep people who base their purchase on color, availability and price from buying farmed fish. 3:23:26 PM SENATOR ELTON agreed - people make buying decisions for many different reasons, but for a growing number of people there is a question of whether or not they want to purchase GM fish. 3:25:40 PM SENATOR SEEKINS moved to pass SB 25 from committee with individual recommendations. Senators Ellis, Davis, Ben Stevens, Seekins and Chair Bunde voted yea; and SB 25 moved from committee.