PUBLISHED: 11:36 AM on Wednesday, May 11, 2005
House Passes Frankenfish Labeling Bill
Elton, Gary Stevens legislation wins unanimous support

JUNEAU - The House last night gave unanimous approval to Senate Bill 25, which requires labeling of fish sold in Alaska that have been genetically modified. The Senate bill passed unanimously in March. SB 25 is now on its way to the governor for his signature.

Senate Democratic Whip Kim Elton, D-Juneau, and Senate Majority Leader Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, are the bill's sponsors. House Democratic Whip Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, carried the bill on the House side. The bill became known as the Frankenfish bill.

"The message that Alaska seafood is more natural than seafood that has been engineered in a lab is a highly important marketing tool," said Senator Stevens. "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."

An application by an aquaculture company to sell a genetically modified, growth-enhanced salmon is pending before the Food and Drug Administration. Atlantic salmon are expected to be the first species slated for genetic modification, but catfish, tilapia and others would follow close behind.

The Pacific Fisheries Legislative Task Force Fish Review of December 2004 reports that Aqua Bounty, a biotechnology company with offices in the United States and Canada, is asking Canadian authorities for approval to use genetically modified fish in Canada's fish farms.

"I am encouraged by the bi-partisan support this bill received," said Senator Elton. "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."

A product of the Joint Legislative Salmon Task Force, SB 25 requires Alaska retailers to identify and label foods containing fish and shellfish, or fish and shellfish products, which have been genetically modified.