By Mike Lillis
Calling the review process flawed, a long list of Democrats from both the House and Senate are calling on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reject a Massachusetts company's bid to bring a genetically modified salmon to the market.
The lawmakers say the FDA is evaluating the fish as if it were a new drug, not a new animal.
"The FDA approval process is inadequate and sets a dangerous precedent: the environmental review is flawed, and the consumer’s right to know is ignored," a group of 20 House Democrats — led by Reps. Dennis Kucinich (Ohio), Peter DeFazio (Ore.) and Mike Thompson (Calif.) — wrote Tuesday to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg.
"Rather than developing an appropriate evaluation method, the FDA is currently proceeding to approve the [genetically engineered] fish using its process for reviewing a new drug meant for animals."
A similar message is coming from the Senate, where 11 Democrats penned a separate letter to Hamburg Tuesday, arguing that information withheld from the public as proprietary prevents consumers from knowing fully the potential health effects of eating the product.
"Critical information has been kept from the public and consequently, only FDA and [the company] know important details about the approval process," wrote the lawmakers, led by Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska).
The senators have asked Hamburg to "halt all proceedings" related to the approval process.
FDA officials met last week to decide whether AquaBounty Technologies’ should be permitted to sell its genetically modified Atlantic salmon, which has been outfitted with a growth hormone gene from a Chinook salmon and an antifreeze gene from an ocean pout. The genes allow the new creation — dubbed the AquAdvantage salmon — to grow about twice as fast as its natural cousin.
If approved, it would be the first genetically modified animal allowed to be sold as food.
The agency is also weighing whether to force the company to label its salmon as genetically engineered.
The Democrats endorsing the House letter include Reps. Earl Blumenauer (Ore.), George Miller (Calif.), Sam Farr (Calif.), John Garamendi (Calif.), Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.), Maurice Hinchey (N.Y.), Barbara Lee (Calif.), Betty McCollum (Minn.), Dennis Moore (Kan.), Jim Moran (Va.), Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), Jackie Speier (Calif.), Peter Welch (Vt.), Lynn Woolsey (Calif.), David Wu (Ore.), Madeleine Bordallo (Guam) and Donna Christensen (V.I.).
Lawmakers signing the upper-chamber letter were Democratic Sens. Patty Murray (Wash.), Bernie Sanders (Vt.), Maria Cantwell (Wash.), Ron Wyden (Ore.), Patrick Leahy (Vt.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Barbara Mikulski (Md.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.), and Jon Tester (Mont.).
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) also endorsed the letter.