LIES, Capital Press 3/21/13
SALEM -- A University of California animal
scientist cautioned Oregon lawmakers about adopting bills
that would ban the sale and production of genetically
engineered fish in the state.
In a hearing before the House Agriculture and
Natural Resources Committee, Alison Van Eenennaan, a UC-Davis
Cooperative Extension scientist, said the technology to
genetically engineer fish can help satisfy the world's fish
consumption needs and reduce pressure on wild caught fish.
"As a scientist and someone that is
interested in food production, I am concerned here that we
have a bill that is going to basically ban genetically
engineered fish," Van Eenennaan said.
"Aquaculture is going to be required in order
to be able to fill the need we have for fish products in the
future," she said.
In the March 21 hearing, the committee heard
testimony on four bills seeking to regulate and label
genetically engineered food and fish.
* House Bill 2530 prohibits importation of GE
fish into Oregon for consumption or production.
* House Bill 3177 requires sellers of GE fish
to label that the fish has been genetically modified.
* And House bills 2175 and 2532 require
labeling of food containing genetically modified
Rep. Paul Holvey, D-Eugene, who sponsored
HB2530 and HB2532, said the GE fish bills are needed to
protect Oregon's native salmon population from the potential
transmission of diseases from GE salmon.
"In light of recent developments across the
country and the world on genetically engineered fish, and
the proliferation of the aquaculture industry potentially
using these fish causes great concern to the state of Oregon
and Pacific salmon," Holvey said.
The Food and Drug Administration has yet to
approve production of GE fish. It recently extended the
public comment period to April 26 on a proposal to produce
GE Atlantic salmon in an enclosed system.
Holvey said he is concerned that if the FDA
approves proposal, the salmon could escape into the wild and
spread diseases and reduce the population of native Pacific
"They grow fast. They grow large. And they
are aggressive, and they can outcompete for habitat," Holvey
said of the GE fish. "This is too big a risk for us to take
to watch the native species of Pacific salmon potentially
Van Eenennaan said, however, that science
shows Atlantic salmon do not adapt well in non-native
environments, and, she said, the Atlantic and Pacific salmon
are not genetically compatible, so won't produce offspring.
Also, she said, the proposal before the FDA
to approve the AquAdvantage salmon specifies that the fish
be produced only in an FDA inspected facility and be
"Arbitrarily banning production technologies
can have unanticipated effects in terms of forestalling
future applications that might be highly beneficial and well
aligned with food safety and security goals," Van Eenennaan
Van Eenennaan also spoke against the bills to
label genetically engineered fish and food, saying the
labels could create a misperception that the food is somehow
"I think it is likely that if I see a
mandatory sign that says genetically engineered, and I'm the
general public, I'm going to perceive that as some sort of
warning signal that there is something inherently unsafe
about that particular product," she said.
"The labeling of GE is not a food safety
issue," she said. "The World Health Association, the
National Academy of Sciences, the American Medical
Association, more than 300 independent studies on the health
and safety of GE foods have reached the same determination
that foods made using GE ingredients are safe and, in fact,
are substantially equivalent to conventional alternatives."
Portland attorney John DiLorenzo also said
that the labeling bills violate the First Amendment.
"Federal courts have consistently held that
food labeling laws in states may not differ significantly
from federal laws," DiLorenzo said.
Holvey said he introduced the food labeling
bill because he believes consumers have a right to know if
they are eating genetically modified ingredients.
The committee took no action on the bills.