According to a coalition of Canadian groups, Environment Canada refuses to confirm or deny if the department has already started a secret 120-day risk assessment to approve genetically engineered (GE) salmon egg production on Prince Edward Island. The groups also released a joint statement of “categorical objection” to the raising of GE fish and fish eggs (1).
Documents released in September by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) revealed that the US company AquaBounty is seeking approval to sell its GE salmon into the US food market based on a plan to produce all its GE salmon eggs on Prince Edward Island (PEI) and then ship the eggs to Panama for grow out and processing.
Following this revelation, groups made inquiries to Environment Canada but were told that any information about a possible risk assessment is confidential. The groups are calling for full disclosure and demanding that Environment Canada cease any approval process that may already be underway.
“We call on Environment Canada to reject any request for permission to commercially produce genetically engineered fish or fish eggs,” said Matthew Abbott, Fundy Baykeeper Coordinator, “Environment Canada needs to immediately inform Canadians if they have started an environmental assessment for GE salmon egg production. This secrecy is totally unacceptable.”
The joint statement of opposition to GE fish, “No GE Fish Research, Production, Consumption in, and Export from, Canada,” was signed by a wide range of groups from across Canada including the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, Ecology Action Centre Nova Scotia, the PEI Coalition for a GMO-Free Province, Fundy Baykeeper, Living Oceans Society, Pure Salmon Campaign, Fraser Riverkeeper, First Nations Environmental Network, Greenpeace, and the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network.
“Farmed fish can and do escape. Genetically engineered salmon is an unacceptable and unnecessary threat to endangered wild Atlantic salmon,” said Shauna MacKinnon of Living Oceans Society in BC. “When GE fish escape into wild populations, studies indicate that wild fish are at risk of decline.”
“We don’t want Prince Edward Island to be the global origin of dangerous GE salmon,” said Leo Broderick of the Council of Canadians on PEI. A coalition of PEI groups is asking Premier Robert Ghiz to intervene and insist on disclosure from Environment Canada (2). “It’s highly disturbing that we only found out about the company’s plans for Prince Edward Island from US consultations,” said Broderick who attended US FDA hearings in September.
The company AquaBounty has engineered a faster growing Atlantic salmon by inserting a growth hormone gene from Chinook salmon and genetic material from ocean pout (an eel-like creature).
“Documents released by the US government reveal that the company is assuming it will get permission to produce all of its GE salmon eggs in Canada,” said Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network. “Minister of Environment John Baird must take immediate action to stop genetically engineered salmon eggs from being produced in Canada. We have a global responsibility to protect Atlantic salmon from this dangerous technology.”
(1) The full statement opposing GE fish and list of signatory groups can be viewed at http://www.cban.ca/statementopposingGEfish
(2) The letter to the Premier of PEI can be viewed at http://www.cban.ca/PEIletter