Legislature(2017 - 2018)BUTROVICH 205
01/29/2018 03:30 PM RESOURCES
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HJR 12-OPPOSING GEN. ENGINEERED SALMON 4:03:57 PM CHAIR GIESSEL announced consideration of HJR 12 [CSHJR 12(FSH), version 30-LS0276\D, was before the committee]. 4:04:09 PM REPRESENTATIVE TARR, Alaska State Legislature, sponsor of HJR 12, thanked the committee for hearing the resolution. THATCHER BROWER, staff to Representative Tarr, Alaska State Legislature, Juneau, Alaska, introduced himself. REPRESENTATIVE TARR said HJR 12 is not a new topic for the legislature. When she first started working on it in 2013, they were still pushing the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) to not approve genetically modified salmon. That changed with the November 2015 decision to allow genetically modified salmon. The reason for her continued concern is that this is the first time the FDA has approved a genetically modified animal for human consumption. Genetically modified plants were approved for human consumption in the early 90s. She said AquaBounty Advantage Salmon uses Ocean pout DNA that makes fish grow year-round and Chinook salmon DNA making fish grow bigger faster for its genetic modifications. 4:06:22 PM She showed pictures of a wild salmon compared to a GM salmon and said Alaska is proud of its strong fisheries policies that manage for sustainability, so this renewable resource will be around for years to come. It is important for the state's economy but also for its culture. Our relationship with salmon is different than the company that is promoting the GM salmon. A picture of the AquaBounty website revealed that the business is not so much about sustainability as it is about growing a product faster. 4:07:26 PM REPRESENTATIVE TARR said the fact that the salmon are grown in an indoor facility is one of the reasons people say it may be less risky, but that may not be the case. This highly mechanized indoor operation does not say sustainable fishery management to her. Besides risk to human health and the state's economy, escapement still poses a threat to wild salmon. These GM salmon are produced in three different countries. She has visited the facility on Prince Edward Island [in the Bay of Fortune, Nova Scotia] where the eggs are produced. The eggs are shipped to Panama to grow into fish. Then they are sold for consumption in the U.S. The regulatory oversight is "strange" because all these jurisdictions are involved. In a broader sense, Alaska fisherman have caught Atlantic farmed salmon and there are risks associated with that. REPRESENTATIVE TARR said Prince Edward Island has a tourism- based economy and when she first visited in 2013 some people were concerned that "Frankenfish" came up first when Prince Edward Island was googled, and they didn't want to be branded that way given the controversy around it. They didn't know if people would want to visit. That is what made them interested in the work she was doing in Alaska; they have since filed a lawsuit. She said the AquaBounty facility was really concerning because it was so closely situated to a water body where native Atlantic salmon live. Farmed salmon can also spread more disease and a scientific study found that when they cross-breed with wild fish the new hybridized fish could out-compete and outgrow the wild variety within several life cycles. 4:12:14 PM The FDA approved genetically modified salmon under the veterinary medicine component of the FDA rather than as a food product, and people have questioned whether that is the appropriate way to test if one is testing for human health concerns. The lack of rigorous scientific examination of what the human health risks are is a big part of the opposition to this particular proposal even for folks that may be supportive in the end. REPRESENTATIVE TARR explained the price of wild salmon took a huge dip when farmed salmon was introduced. The legislature's response was creating the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) to market Alaska's wild salmon. It has been very successful in doing that. It has been reported that wild Alaska salmon is the second most recognized brand on restaurant menus. But absent labelling, the introduction of this genetically modified salmon will undermine people's confidence in our product. The fishing industry is the largest private sector employer in Alaska and we want to keep jobs rather than lose jobs. Alaskans are not alone in opposing GM salmon. Major retailers, like Fred Meyer and Costco, where Alaska buy a lot of their food have said they will not sell the GM salmon, but its approval is still a challenge and it can be sold almost anywhere. 4:15:46 PM She said there is also international opposition. When the approval first was made, the Prince Edward Island filed a lawsuit for the way the Canadian government approved the production of the GM eggs. Panama is where the fish are actually grown, and the company was fined by the Panamanian government because of escapement issues. One can see the potential jurisdictional problems, because this industry involves three different countries. Some U.S. fishing, environmental, and consumer safety groups filed a lawsuit on March 31, 2016 questioning how it was approved in the first place. 4:17:26 PM REPRESENTATIVE TARR applauded the Alaska Congressional delegation for their leadership as outspoken advocates for Alaska wild salmon. On July 11, 2017, Senator Murkowski introduced legislation to mandate the labeling of genetically engineered (GE) salmon. The bill requires an independent third- party scientific review of the FDA's environmental assessment for all GE fish for human consumption. This would be additional protection. She said the AquaBounty website used to list a whole number of species that they were interested in having genetically modified from shrimp to crab to other fish. So, questions around the regulatory framework used (rather than a focus on human consumption) and concerns for the marine environment need to be understood before the flood gates are opened to many more applications. Senator Murkowski's bill, S1528, has been referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions and has not received a hearing, yet. It is co-sponsored by Senator Dan Sullivan, Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington, and Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon. 4:19:40 PM SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI asked if the resolution opposes just AquaBounty or all GE salmon. REPRESENTATIVE TARR replied theirs is the only application that has been approved at this time, and the application is specific to this three-country scenario of eggs, growing the fish, and the marketing of the fish. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI said the next resolve urges the same legislature or the U.S. Congress to enact legislation that requires prominently labeling GE salmon and asked if it would be possible for Congress to outright ban the sale of GE salmon. REPRESENTATIVE TARR answered that Congress could ban it, because that decision would supersede the FDA decision. Alaska is limited by the Interstate Commerce Clause to what it can say. However, she has introduced a bill that would ban the sale of GE salmon in Alaska. The way a company would have to show harm is to say that it violates the Interstate Commerce Clause. So, they would have to prove that barring this law they would stood to make a lot of money in Alaska. But Alaska would have a strong argument that Alaskans probably aren't going to buy this fish if they know that it is genetically modified, probably for the same reasons that a lot less farmed salmon is sold here. Alaskans prefer to catch it themselves or get it from a friend. Her thought was to poke at that a little bit at the state level. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI said that 50 percent of restaurants say their salmon is wild but it's not and asked if there is any way to address that issue. REPRESENTATIVE TARR answered that ASMI does a lot to educate retailers and restaurant owners on where to buy their products and to have a chain of custody to know that it is really wild Alaska salmon, but it needs to be addressed more thoroughly. It is a problem if people are using the brand that Alaska has worked so hard to build to sell farmed salmon; if people get an inferior product they won't buy it again. 4:24:06 PM CHAIR GIESSEL opened public testimony. 4:24:11 PM VAL GIDDINGS, consultant, Biotechnology Innovation Organization, said he specializes in the regulation and policy related to biotechnology and these were his views. He is an angler and loves the wilderness. He shares their concerns for the safety and sustainability of Alaska's salmon fisheries, "a crown jewel in our national heritage of incalculable value, and they face a number of threats." Unfortunately, the AquaAdvantage salmon framed in this bill is the opposite of one of these threats, he said. To the extent it is successful, it will reduce the threat from farmed salmon to Alaska's wild salmon. These salmon are intended to be grown in terrestrial systems far from where they can escape. This is exactly the method for growing Atlantic salmon that the Monterey Seafood Watch Program has rated as "the best choice." The data show that if these salmon did escape, their biology and behavior would make it highly unlikely that any would survive. If they survive, they are sterile and incapable of reproduction. MR. GIDDINGS said if commercial sea pens of Atlantic salmon in the Pacific Northwest were all replaced by these indoor circulating tanks the concerns that the sea pens raised for wild salmon will be completely negated. Even if the AquaAdvantage salmon were capable of reproduction, eggs and fry require fresh water and can't live in the ocean. Another concern raised by the legislation is equally unfounded. The FDA chose to do a more thorough review of this salmon under the new animal drug provisions of the Veterinary Biologics law before allowing it to be introduced into the food supply. All of FDA's analyses were made available for multiple rounds of public comment including an independent third-party review. He has read all the comments and documents to this docket and followed the process from the beginning and after this unprecedented analysis, the FDA concluded that this salmon is indistinguishable from other salmon. It is at least as safe to eat as any other salmon and the way it will be grown gives it the smallest environmental impact of any farmed salmon. 4:28:33 PM FRANCES LEACH, Executive Director, United Fishermen of Alaska (UFA), Juneau, Alaska, strongly supported HJR 12. UFA strongly opposes genetically modified salmon and requests that GM seafood products be clearly labeled as such. According to a New York Times poll, over 90 percent of Americans would prefer that their food is labeled to reflect the content containing GM ingredients; 37 percent of those surveyed expressed concern that GMO in their food may cause cancer and allergies; 75 percent of respondents said they would not eat genetically modified fish. 4:30:38 PM CHAIR GIESSEL, finding no further comments, closed public testimony. SENATOR COGHILL asked the sponsor to respond to language on page 2, line 8, saying AquaAdvantage salmon "could devastate native fish populations." REPRESENTATIVE TARR replied that what she saw peer-reviewed scientific papers showing that this interbreeding took place and why it was such a concern. For example, in Panama, the company was fined for escapement issues. Unpredictable things happen, like an earthquake, that could result in a major release into an adjacent water body. SENATOR COGHILL commented it's an obvious area of dispute. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI asked if she agreed that GE fish are sterile. REPRESENTATIVE TARR replied that it's not true 100 percent of time, and that is why there is a concern. SENATOR COGHILL moved to report [CSHJR 12(FSH)], version 30- LS0276\D, from committee with individual recommendations and attached zero fiscal note. There were no objections and it was so ordered.