The Obama administration has chosen Dr. Robert Califf as the next commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but at least one Senator stands in the way of the candidate’s approval by the Senate. Why? Because the ‘FDA approved the recent genetically engineered salmon days after Califf was questioned on the topic.’
Dr. Califf’s appointment has been a contentious one, especially when you consider that in 2014 alone, he collected more than $100,000 in fees from Big Pharma. He’s had financial ties to Merck, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly, and Novartis, just to name a few, and he’s even helped to launch at least two other pharmaceutical companies. Califf also had a job at Duke University working with drug companies and the FDA to speed new meds through the approvals process.
Dr. Califf’s appointment was approved by by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee last Tuesday, but Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska is threatening to block Califf’s candidacy over the FDA’s approval of genetically engineered salmon.
The FDA approved the GM fish even though more than 2 million people commented during the ‘open comment’ period on its website. They also will not require AquaBounty, the company responsible for bringing GM fish to market, to label it as such, so consumers wouldn’t even know when they are eating it. Like many Americans, Murkowski is appalled that the GM fish was ever approved by the FDA.
“She said she would put a hold on Dr. Califf’s candidacy because the FDA approved a genetically engineered salmon for consumption days after she questioned him on the topic at his confirmation hearing in November.”
Califf is currently the deputy commissioner of the FDA.
“If they are trying to get my support, they sure fumbled that ball,” said the Senator.
Murkowski comes from Alaska, a state that relies heavily on the salmon trade, and where fishermen are adamantly opposed to GMO salmon.
The senator spoke on the Senate floor in November against GM fish:
“I will not stand back and just watch these genetically engineered creatures be placed in our kitchens and on our tables without a fight,” she said in a statement following the after FDA’s approval of GMO salmon. “I am furious about this decision, but now I must do everything I can to make sure it is labeled—consumers have a right to know what it is they are eating.”
Besides threatening to block Califf’s appointment by Obama, Murkowski “helped insert language last month in a massive federal spending bill, directing FDA to prevent the AquaBounty product from reaching the U.S. market until regulators finalize labeling guidelines. It also tells the agency to spend ‘not less than $150,000’ on that effort,” The Washington Post reported.
She has also made it clear that voluntary labeling will not do. She said she would be pushing for further conversations with Califf to address this point.
Murkowski was so enraged, she even tweeted: “I look forward to having conversations w/FDA on Frankenfish, but I intend to block Califf’s confirmation until these issues are resolved.”
Christina Sarich is a humanitarian and freelance writer helping you to Wake up Your Sleepy Little Head, and See the Big Picture. Her blog is Yoga for the New World. Her latest book is Pharma Sutra: Healing the Body And Mind Through the Art of Yoga.