News from the sea abound on this National Oceans Month!
First off, you may be pleased to know that the U.S. House of Representatives voted this week to prohibit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from approving genetically modified (GM) salmon for human consumption. The measure was introduced by Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, as an amendment to an agriculture-spending bill after FDA scientists determined last September that the GM salmon developed by Waltham, Mass., biotechnology firm AquaBounty Technologies, called AquAdvantage Salmon, is safe for human consumption. (An FDA advisory committee has since determined that more research is needed.)
“Frankenfish is uncertain and unnecessary,” said Young in a press release. “Any approval of genetically modified salmon could seriously threaten wild salmon populations as they grow twice as fast and require much more food. Frankenfish is bad policy all around. I eat Alaskan wild salmon and I support Alaskan wild salmon and I will not allow these fake fish to affect our healthy stocks.” The Senate still has to weigh in.
The latest turn of events in the GM-salmon saga came about less than a week after U.S. aquaculture received an official boost from the Obama Administration. Its new guidelines are designed to stimulate open ocean aquaculture (OOA) or the development of fish farms in federal water–the strip of open ocean that stretches between 3 and 200 miles off the coast of the United States, outside of states’ jurisdictions.
“Encouraging and developing the US ($1-billion) aquaculture industry will result in economic growth and create jobs at home, support exports to global markets, and spur new innovations in technology to support the industry,” said Commerce Secretary Gary Locke.
The zone that is targeted in priority by the new policy? The Gulf of Mexico.
If Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska–him again–gets his way, however, fish farming in U.S. ocean waters will remain under the sole authority of states. “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, neither the Secretary of the Interior nor the Secretary of Commerce may issue any permit or in any other way authorize any person to conduct commercial finfish aquaculture operations in the Exclusive Economic Zone of the United States (as established by Proclamation Numbered 5030, dated March 10, 1983), except in accordance with a law authorizing such action that is enacted after the date of the enactment of this Act,” states his bill H.R. 574.