Makers of Frankenfish have changed their tune now that labeling their product is about to become law.
The fish is a genetically tweaked Atlantic salmon that grows nearly three times faster than normal fish. The manmade salmon are grown at a land based facility in Indiana.
In a $1.4 trillion bill passed by Congress last week, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski slipped in a rider that will require “a clear, text-based label” that tells customers they are buying “genetically engineered” fish.
The labeling rule is a final hurdle for AquaBounty to sell its manmade salmon in the U.S. The push has been two decades in the making; now the fish is set to go to market by late 2020.
AquaBounty called Murkowski’s push for labeling “vague” and “unnecessary” and said it was a misguided attempt to single out a small, innovative company to protect special interests. it added in a release that the rider only benefits foreign fish farmers.
That’s a change of tune from October when AquaBounty embraced the Frankenfish name at a conference in Washington, DC and called opponents an “uneducated mob” that “didn’t understand the benefits of the science.”
Then, company CEO Sylvia Wulf called a labeling law “good news” adding “the market will be awash in so many bioengineered products, customers won’t focus on their fish.”
Wulf said buyers are “already lined up to get it.”
That sounds like a tough sell.
Nearly 2 million Americans opposed the FDA’s 2015 approval of Frankenfish and 60 major grocery chains with 9,000 locations pledged not to sell it, including Safeway, Kroger, and Target.
Also, 75% of respondents to a New York Times poll said they would not eat genetically tweaked salmon.
Meanwhile, Jeremy Woodrow, director of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, says it’s just another type of farmed fish.
“Honestly, here at ASMI, we see that as just another farmed seafood product, and we’ve been competing against farmed salmon in the marketplace for several decades now. Wild, natural, sustainable – those are attributes that really only apply to Alaska salmon, wild-harvested salmon and that sets us apart in the marketplace, and those are the attributes that we’ll continue to sell to customers.”
In a touch of irony, while AquaBounty plans to expand its sales to China and South America, it has no plans to pitch its Frankenfish to Europe because of “their anti-GM leanings.”