Legislature(2015 - 2016)BARNES 124
04/13/2016 03:15 PM LABOR & COMMERCE
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HJR 28-OPPOSING GM SALMON 5:42:30 PM CHAIR OLSON announced that the next order of business would be CS FOR HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 28(FSH), Opposing the United States Food and Drug Administration's approval of AquaBounty AquAdvantage genetically engineered salmon; urging the United States Congress to enact legislation that requires prominently labeling genetically engineered products with the words "Genetically Modified" on the product's packaging; and supporting the efforts of the state's congressional delegation to delay the confirmation of the new commissioner of the United States Food and Drug Administration until the United States Food and Drug Administration agrees to require labeling for genetically engineered salmon. 5:42:48 PM REPRESENTATIVE GERAN TARR, sponsor of CSHJR 28(FSH), provided a PowerPoint presentation entitled, "HJR 28: Opposing GM Salmon." Representative Tarr informed the committee that in [November, 2015] the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, approved genetically modified (GM) salmon, which is the first time a GM animal has been approved for human consumption [slide 1]. Genetically modified salmon is modified using Chinook salmon to make the GM fish grow bigger faster, and Ocean pout, to make the GM fish grow year-around [slide 2]. The GM fish grow twice as big and twice as fast as farmed salmon [slide 3]. Representative Tarr stressed this issue is important to address at this time because the seafood industry is Alaska's largest private-sector employer, and is valued at $6 billion to the state. The needs of Alaskans are different than those of AquaBounty, the company promoting GM salmon, as indicated by its statement that faster growing salmon would make land-based fish farming economically viable [slide 4]. In contrast, Alaskans think of successful sustainable fisheries management and of wild Alaska salmon, the fishing economies of coastal communities, and the Bristol Bay fishery [slides 5 and 6]. She presented illustrations of AquaBounty fish farming operations producing food items [slide 7]. Concerns about GM salmon include possible threats to wild salmon, risks to human health, and risks to the state's economy [slide 8]. Threats to wild salmon are due to escapement; although AquaBounty reports that GM salmon are grown in land- based pens, the eggs are produced at a facility on Prince Edward Island on Bay Fortune, which connects to the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Atlantic Ocean [slides 9 and 10]. After the eggs are produced, they will be flown to South America to be raised, and then returned to be sold in the U.S. She related her experience visiting Prince Edward Island residents who are alarmed by the island's image presented to tourists, and noted that the residents there are supportive of the Alaska State Legislature's stance on this issue [slide 11]. Research has shown that GM salmon can out-compete, and be more aggressive than, wild salmon, as reported by McGill University [report not provided][slides 12 and 13]. Representative Tarr said the report stated that GM salmon was bred with wild brown trout and research indicated that the hybridized species could out-compete the GM salmon and its wild counterpart. 5:49:04 PM REPRESENTATIVE TARR further explained that risks to human health are of great concern because FDA approval was through the veterinary drug process, thus there are those who feel the drug has not been sufficiently tested. It is known that there will be exposure to hormones [slide 14]. Risks to the state's economy include the negative impact on the price of wild salmon after the introduction of farmed salmon. The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI), Department of Commerce, Community & Economic Development, has invested in branding wild Alaska salmon for its health benefits, and reports that Alaska wild salmon is one of the most recognized brands in the U.S. [slide 15]. She observed that Alaska is not alone in opposing GM salmon, and U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski has been leading action related to labeling in Congress. In addition, public pressure has been effective, and 65 retailers have announced they will not sell GM salmon [slide 16]. International opposition includes a lawsuit filed in Canada [slide 17]. Finally, a lawsuit brought by food safety and fishing groups was filed in the U.S. 3/31/16, challenging FDA's authority to regulate GM salmon not as a food product, but as a veterinary drug [slide 19]. Representative Tarr pointed out that she has provided supporting documents in the committee packet, and restated her opposition to GM salmon. 5:52:57 PM REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPHSON asked if FDA has the authority to act in this regard, and whether the agency can be challenged. REPRESENTATIVE TARR said there are legal remedies, such as a lawsuit, and statutory remedies related to labeling. Another option is legislation to ban the sale of GM salmon. REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPHSON assumed that if a label revealed genetic modification, a product would not succeed economically. REPRESENTATIVE TARR advised that in the U.S., "We don't do much with labeling, most European countries have moved on, a lot of European countries have banned a lot of the genetically modified products because of concerns about human health ...." 5:54:43 PM The committee took an at ease from 5:54 p.m. to 5:55 p.m. 5:55:09 PM CHAIR OLSON opened public testimony. After ascertaining no one wished to testify, public testimony was closed. 5:55:18 PM REPRESENTATIVE TILTON moved to report CSHJR 28(FSH), Version 29- LS1213\H out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying zero fiscal notes. There being no objection, CSHJR 28(FSH) was reported out of the House Labor and Commerce Standing Committee.