Alaska Senate Set To Approve Anti-Genetically-Engineered Salmon Resolution

A resolution opposing genetically engineered salmon is likely to pass the Alaska Legislature this week.

The so-called “Frankenfish” resolution cleared the Senate Resources Committee on Friday, its last stop before a vote on the Senate floor. The resolution unanimously passed the House about a month ago.

Seward High School sophomore Griffin Plush was in Juneau last week with Alaska Youth for Environmental Action. He says a genetically modified fish could escape its holding pen and cause harm to the environment and Alaska fisheries.

“It would be devastating to fishing communities like Seward, who rely on the salmon population and a healthy salmon population for tourism and the fishing industry,” Plush said.

He had hoped to testify on the anti-Frankenfish measure, but had to leave town before Friday’s hearing.

Masachusetts-based AquaBounty has spent more than $70 million to develop the genetically modified fish, which is an Atlantic salmon with genes from a king salmon and an eel-like fish to make it grow faster.

The company is seeking US Food and Drug Administration approval for the product. A preliminary FDA report says the fish would have no significant impact on the environment.

But Representative Geran Tarr, the Anchorage Democrat who sponsored House Joint Resolution 5, says the FDA doesn’t have enough evidence to back up that finding. If the agency approves AquaBounty’s petition, Tarr says it would be the first time a genetically modified animal product is approved for human consumption.

“This resolution, should we be successful in passing it, will be sent along with a letter and submitted as public comments on behalf of the legislature,” Tarr said. “And I like to say it’s a great opportunity for Alaskans to speak out in one unified voice, because the Congressional delegation has already spoken out in opposition, the governor has spoken out. So, the legislature kind of fills in that last bit of representation.”

Senator Peter Micciche, a Kenai Republican, is a co-sponsor of the measure on the Senate side. At Friday’s Resources Committee hearing, Micciche said resolution enjoys broad public support.

“I have never, since this came to us several years back, have I ever heard a single statement of support for genetically engineered salmon,” Micciche said.

The FDA is taking public comment on AquaBounty’s petition through April 26th.

Casey Kelly is a reporter at KTOO in Juneau.

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