Bill requires labeling genetically altered fish

Posted: Sunday, May 08, 2005

Genetically altered fish will need to be labeled as such when products are to be sold in Alaska.

That's the effect of Senate Bill 25, sponsored by Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, and Sen. Kim Elton, D-Juneau. The Alaska House approved the measure unanimously Monday. It had previously won unanimous support in the Senate.

Known as the "Frankenfish" bill, the measure is headed for the governor's desk.

"The message that Alaska seafood is more natural than seafood that has been engineered in a lab is a highly important marketing tool," Stevens said. "This bill helps highlight Alaska seafood as distinct from genetically modified seafood, doing away with any vagueness that may exist to the consumer when purchasing seafood without labeling, and reinforcing the natural message."

Prompting lawmakers to pass Senate Bill 25 was the fact that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is considering an application by an aquaculture company to sell a genetically modified, growth-enhanced salmon. According to a press release from Elton's office, Atlantic salmon are expected to be the first species slated for genetic modification, but catfish, tilapia and others would follow.

Meanwhile, according to the Pacific Fisheries Legislative Task Force, a biotech company called Aqua Bounty has sought Canadian approval to use genetically modified fish in Canada's fish farms, Elton said.

"I am encouraged by the bipartisan support this bill received," he said. "It is a sign that, when it comes to seafood, Alaskans stand up for informed consumers and friends and neighbors working in the wild fish industry."

According to Stevens and Elton, legislation requiring labeling genetically modified fish products already exists in the European Union, Japan, New Zealand and Australia. SB 25 is similar to legislation introduced in Oregon and California.

The bill requires Alaska retailers to identify and label foods containing fish and shellfish, or fish and shellfish products, which have been genetically modified.

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