WASHINGTON, June 20, 2013- The Senate Appropriations Committee today approved an agricultural spending bill for fiscal year 2014, which provides $20.9 billion to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The bill passed by a vote of 23-6 and provides $420 million above the fiscal year 2013 enacted level.
The committee approved an amendment to defund USDA inspection of horse slaughter facilities in the United States and approved another to require the labeling of genetically engineered salmon developed by AquaBounty and under consideration by the FDA.
Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., sponsored the horse slaughter measure, which she said mirrors the language passed in the House Appropriations Committee and is supported in the President’s budget. The committee adopted the measure with a voice vote.
Although banned since 2006, Congress reinstated the ability for USDA to inspect horse slaughter facilities in the country for fiscal year 2012. Some Congress members backed the provision on grounds that without domestic slaughter facilities, studies showed horse neglect and abuse increases and horses are shipped inhumanely across national borders.
However, also in the House appropriations bill, Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., passed an amendment that prohibits funding for inspections of horse slaughter facilities.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, sponsored what she called the “Frankenfish amendment,” which provides FDA funding to label genetically engineered salmon.
“Not less than $150,000 shall be used to implement a requirement that the labeling of genetically engineered salmon offered for sale to consumers indicate that such salmon is genetically engineered,” states the Murkowski amendment adopted by a narrow 15-14 vote.
Murkowski attempted last year to pull funding from FDA’s consideration of the product, but this year’s amendment would require FDA label the product as genetically engineered for consumers. The senator recognized that FDA “is not concerned” about the safety of GE salmon, but she insisted that she is worried about its introduction into the market and that the salmon, which can grow twice as fast as other animals of the species, will escape into wild stocks of regular salmon.
“I’m not willing to take the risk,” she said. “But if it’s designed for human consumption let’s at least allow for labeling.”
The House Appropriations Committee passed its FY 2014 agricultural funding bill last week, which totals $19.5 billion in discretionary funding, which is $1.3 billion below the fiscal year 2013 enacted level.
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