Republican State Representative Condotta (R) co-sponsored by Representative Van de Wege, have put forward bill HB 2143, to ban genetically modified salmon in the State. This would ban net pen operations in state waters from farming any genetically modified salmon. It does not ban raising them in upland closed container sites. Additionally it calls for identification of farmed GMO fish vs. commercially caught salmon. Background on this is that Washington was the first state in the country, in 1993, to make it a law to label salmon as wild or farmed. It was heavily opposed by the same industry coalition back then. But it passed. We led the way in salmon labeling, and the arguments are again being made that labeling and banning of these fish should be a Federal issue, not a State issue. They also say it will cause consumer confusion. I personally don’t know many consumers who are confused as to wild vs. farmed salmon labels. In fact, it seems to have spurred purchase of wild salmon, as consumers know that they are getting what they want, as opposed to not knowing if it is or isn’t. That confusion is more likely to lead to other choices of protein.
The reasons for this bill that have been put forward is to codify the rules on avoiding cross contamination on GMO salmon and to add a simple label on GMO fish when they are sold in Washington State stores.
At the January 17th Public Hearing, testimony was hot and heavy. Industry spokespeople were out in force to attempt to stop the bill. Also citizen activists testified in favor of it. Industry is attempting to muddy the waters by claiming that this will ban research and development of genetic fish, some of which could be hampering work on human disease development. To be clear, the bill does not ban that research. It bans farming GMO salmon in State Waters. That is defined as navigable waters in the state. The Sound, Strait, Outer Coasts and freshwater rivers and streams are usually what is meant by that term.
Some of the testimony (pardon me if the names are spelled wrong, they were not always clearly identifiable):
A panel opposed to the bill showed up to testify:
Alan Cook of Icicle Seafoods. They opposed the bill claiming that GMO salmon are already banned in State waters.
John Dentler Director of Troutlodge. They are the oldest company in aquaculture in America. They grow Sable Fish (Black Cod) and Shellfish. He claimed they have no plans on rearing GMO salmon and trout. They want to carve out an exemption specifically for triploid (sterile) fish in the bill. Labeling aspect is troubling to them. If we specifically label to this State, they are faced with labeling requirements. National and State environmental policy acts handle these issues, he said.
John Bialka Pacific Aquaculture on the Columbia. They produce triploid trout for restaurant business. Not interested in raising GMO salmon. Opposed the bill.
Also in opposition to the bill.
- Dan Swecker ex-salmon farmer and ED Washington Salmon Growers Assoc.
- JIm Jesernig ofWashington Association of Wheat Growers -
- Tom Davis Farm Bureau
- Heather Hansen – Friends of Farms and Forest. ”True intent is to stigmatize genetically modified food”
- NW Grocery Association
- James Curry NW Food Processors Assoc. – Opposed to the bill.
- Dan Coin – Biotechnology Industry Association – Opposed.
Showing up in favor of the bill
- The Yakima Nation
- Doug Milholland of Port Townsend. He brought up Salmon Confidential and the work going on in British Columbia against farmed and GMO salmon.
- Senator Marilyn Chase 32nd district (D) testified in favor of the bill.
- Ann Mossmiss – Ex-Alaska Fisherman. Food and Society Policy Fellow Institute of Agriculture and Trade Culture. Very concerned about the new genetically modfied National Academy of Scientists are very skeptical and concerned on this. She was a very convincing speaker with a great deal of background on the subject.
The bill will encounter stiff opposition in the House and Senate,if it even passes out of committee. I highly recommend that any of you wanting to weigh in on this bill do so now. Send emails to Representative Kevin Van De Wege’s office.
Watch the whole testimony here:
The Bill itself: