Eating healthy should be a priority throughout the year, but I'm glad to get the opportunity to create and expand awareness during National Women's Health Week. As the readers of Women's Health, you probably know that regularly including salmon in your dietÃ¢â‚¬”two to three times per week is a great goalÃ¢â‚¬”has tremendous health benefits. In addition to Omega-3s, salmon is loaded with other good nutrients such as vitamins B-6 and 12 and niacin, and of course it's also a great source of lean protein. Whether it's to my Senate colleagues, the Food and Drug Administration Commissioner, or my boys around the dinner table, my message is always the same: It's Mother Nature's perfect food.
As an Alaskan, I am proud of the tremendous quality of the wild and sustainably-caught salmon from my home stateÃ¢â‚¬”Chinook, Sockeye, Coho, Pink, and Chum salmon. It's available in so many grocery stores in the Lower 48 throughout the year; it's delicious and easy to prepare; andÃ¢â‚¬”best of allÃ¢â‚¬”it's the real thing.
Unfortunately, the reason I'm reaching out to Women's Health's readers is a less-than-positive development in the world of salmon: genetically engineered salmon, or as we in Alaska call it, Frankenfish. Compared to healthy and delicious wild Alaska salmon, the genetically engineered salmon is a nightmare gone wrong. Let me share with you just how wrong this so-called fish is: This Frankenfish starts from a transgenic Atlantic salmon egg, which is created by splicing genes from an ocean pout combined with the genes of Chinook salmon, and then inserted into an Atlantic salmon. (Remind anyone of "Jurassic Park?") With all of these changes and additions, I'm not even sure it's accurate to call this "fish" a salmon. It's more a science fair project on a plate.
And yet: Despite the opposition of more than 1.5 million people who have written to the Food and Drug Administration, despite a growing number of grocery stores that have announced that they will not sell it, the FDA continues to move forward with its approval of genetically engineered salmon. Why? Consumers clearly do not want it. Retailers clearly do not want it. People who are concerned about their health should stay away from it as well. With so many unanswered and unanswerable questions about the long-term impacts of consuming such a creationÃ¢â‚¬”as well as the threats posed to our wild salmon populationÃ¢â‚¬”it's a bad idea to move forward with it.
But in the event the FDA grants the approval, I have pushed hard in the Senate for clear labeling requirements for any genetically engineered salmon sold for human consumption. I believe at the very least, the FDA must require labeling that allows consumers to identify this as a genetically engineered product.
There are a lot of small ways you can join me in my efforts: When you're shopping for healthy choices for your family, you should demand accurate information to inform your decisions. Also, many stores are publicly denouncing genetically engineered salmon and announcing they won't sell it if it comes to marketÃ¢â‚¬”keep an eye out for those stores and make sure you support them and their stance. Lastly, there are many initiatives popping up nationwide at the state level to require labeling or ban the sale of Frankenfish outright; you can participate in these movementsÃ¢â‚¬”or start one of your own!
Know that I will continue to fight against the approval of genetically engineered salmon. Put your health first and enjoy the real thing: wild Alaska salmon.
----- Senator Lisa Murkowski, Alaska's senior Senator, has served in the Senate since 2002. A third-generation Alaskan, she is the first Senator born in that state. Senator Murkowski is the senior Republican member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, where sheÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the ranking Republican of the Interior and Environment Subcommittee, as well as a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. A strong advocate for health care, energy, education, and military/veteranÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s affairs, she served three terms in the Alaska State House of Representatives before becoming U.S. Senator.