News & Views
Canadian approval of GM salmon eggs under fire
By Matt Jones
By Matt Jones
Several environmental and consumer organizations in Canada don’t like the idea of an east coast hatchery providing genetically-modified salmon eggs to the world’s aquaculture industry.
In an effort to stop the government approval a trio of Canadian environmental groups recently filed a lawsuit in the country’s Federal Court challenging Environment Canada’s decision to give the hatchery approval for GM salmon eggs.
The groups contend that the department didn’t follow its own legally-required set of rules and, among other things, failed to do a full risk assessment before okaying AquaBounty Technologies’ production of the eggs for commercial purposes out of its hatchery in Prince Edward Island.
The three groups – Ecology Action Centre, Living Oceans and Ecojustice – complain that they’ve been unable to obtain the documentation the agency used in coming to the decision in favor of the Boston-based company, so it’s been almost impossible to contest the data.
There has been a dearth of comment of any kind from Environment Canada the groups and others note.
A spokesperson for AquaBounty told this publication he considers the process to have been exceptionally transparent and open.
“This has been the most transparent and rigorous application review process ever conducted,” AquaBounty communications official Dave Conley said by email.
“Multiple regulatory agencies in both the USA and Canada have concluded that our salmon is environmentally safe. They are backed up by the consensus of the credible scientific community. This lawsuit is nothing more than an attempt to continue to delay a process that has already taken 20 years”
AquaBounty has been seeking regulatory approval for the genetically modified fish in the United States since 1995. So while neither Canada nor the US has okayed fish grown from the eggs for human consumption, the Environment Canada decision allowing the production of eyed eggs out the hatchery is seen as a landmark along the road to approval for GM salmon. If approval is granted it would become the first GM animal to be sold on the human food market in Canada and the US.
AquaBounty said in a press release last November that Environment Canada’s approval had been based on a close study of its hatchery facility in Souris, PEI, and on the opinion of a panel of independent scientific experts through the federal department of Fisheries and Oceans.
AquaBounty intends to rear the salmon eggs in Prince Edward Island (P.E.I.) and then transport them to a land-based facility in Panama where they will be grown-out and then shipped back to US. markets after the necessary approvals are granted.
– Quentin Dodd