Fish Radio

Labels for Frankenfish, pollock

December 18, 2015                      Labels for GMOs

This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch … A new label for pollock and for Frankenfish. More after this –

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The big Omnibus spending bill just passed by Congress will bankroll the federal government through next September. It included some good news on the fish front; notably, provisions for labeling genetically tweaked salmon and correcting a labeling error for pollock.

For GMO salmon, which was approved this year by the FDA for dinner plates, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski scored a temporary win to get the fish labeled. Her provision requires the Food and Drug Administration to develop labeling guidelines and full GMO disclosure for the fish before it hits US supermarkets.  It covers 2016 only so far.  Congress also sided with individual state’s rights on labeling GMO products. The so called AquAdvantage salmon is expected on the market in two years.

Turning to Alaska’s biggest fishery – pollock:  After more than two years the FDA has finally agreed to change the labeling of Alaska pollock to just ‘pollock’ on its seafood rosters. The FDA governs and lists what every US seafood product will be called. For decades, it has applied the Alaska Pollock moniker to all fish of that species, regardless of where it is caught.

So if the fish is caught in Korea or Japan or Russia it still can be sold as Alaska pollock in the United States. And that’s not the case with Alaska salmon or halibut or Alaska crab. 

Pat Shanahan is Program Director for the trade group GAPP, the Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers. In real numbers, 40-50 percent of what’s listed as Alaska pollock is likely from Russia.

  So our request is to remove the name Alaska from the acceptable market name because if we do that, then only that fish that’s from Alaska would be able to be labeled Alaska pollock. We’re not saying we wouldn’t use the brand Alaska – we want to use it. But we don’t want it to be used incorrectly by products that are not from Alaska.

The pollock name change passed as a bipartisan bill championed by the Alaska and  Washington delegations.

The government’s Omnibus spending bill also includes $65 million for recovery of Pacific salmon populations, through grants to states issued by the commerce department. States must match at least one-third of the federal grant amount.

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Fish Radio is also brought to you by Ocean Beauty Seafoods – who salutes and says thanks to the men and women fishing across Alaska for their hard work and dedication. ( In Kodiak, I’m Laine Welch.