Huge: Spending Bill Forces FDA to Label the New GM Salmon
A win for food transparency!
In the massive spending bill unveiled Wednesday morning on Capitol Hill, 2 small paragraphs contain language that may force the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to finalize guidelines for the labeling of the recently-approved genetically modified (GM) salmon, or “Frankenfish.”
In the $1.1 trillion bill to fund the government through September 2016, the agency is instructed to ban the sale of GM salmon until it can complete labeling guidelines and “a program to disclose to consumers” whether a fish has been genetically altered. The FDA is expected to spend a minimum of $150,000 of its funding to develop these guidelines. 
The directive comes a month after health regulators made salmon the first GM animal approved for human consumption. The AquaAdvantage salmon, produced by AquaBounty Technologies, claims to meet the statutory requirements for safety and effectiveness under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.
The Alaskan salmon contains a growth hormone from a Chinook salmon and a gene from the ocean pout that makes the fish grow large enough for consumption in 18 months instead of the normal 3 years. Deep concerns have been raised by opponents of the product and commercial fisherman over whether the fish is indeed safe to eat and whether it would be dangerous to the environment if it ever made its way into ocean waters and mated with wild salmon.
AquaBounty claims the fish are all sterile females that are raised in land-locked facilities, but at one point, the FDA actively sought to release the mutated creatures into the wild.
“There’s a question as to whether this fish should even be called a salmon,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who pushed for the additional language. “The FDA made no mandatory labeling requirement. Instead, they said it could be labeled voluntarily. But no manufacturer of a ‘Frankenfish’ is going to label it as such. … At least now people will have the opportunity, the chance, to know what it is that they are purchasing.”
It’s unclear where the AquAdvantage salmon might show up for sale, but consumer and environmental activists alike have convinced some of the nation’s largest retailers – including Target, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and Costco – not to sell it.
While most Americans support the labeling of GMO foods, industry groups are not happy that the Frankenfish will have the GMO label slapped on it.
“It is unfortunate that Congress has failed to take action this year to stop a patchwork of costly and misleading state labeling mandates, an issue of tremendous importance to consumers, farmers, food and beverage companies,” Pamela Bailey, president and CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Associations said in a statement. “In January, food manufacturers will face exponentially increasing costs totaling hundreds of millions of dollars to comply with Vermont’s GMO labeling mandate.” 
 The Hill
Julie Fidler is a freelance writer, legal blogger, and the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two ridiculously spoiled cats. She occasionally pontificates on her blog.