The Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN), Ecology Action Centre, Living Oceans Society and the Quebec network Vigilance OGM are expressing concerns over Health Canada’s approval of the world’s first genetically modified (GM) food animal, a GM Atlantic salmon, for human consumption.
“Canadians could now be faced with the world’s first GM food animal, approved with no public consultation and no labelling,” said Lucy Sharratt of CBAN.
Health Canada announced approval of the GM fish for human consumption in a conference call last week.(1) The Atlantic salmon has been genetically modified using genes from Chinook salmon and ocean pout, to grow faster. The Canadian decision follows a US government safety approval in November 2015, though there is now a US import ban on the GM fish until some form of labelling standard is established.
“At the very least, the government should immediately establish mandatory labelling of all GM foods so consumers can choose,” said Thibault Rehn of Vigilance OGM.
The latest consumer poll shows 88% of Canadians want mandatory labelling of all GM foods and 45% said they would definitely not eat the GM salmon.
In November 2013, the Minister of Environment approved commercial production of the GM fish eggs and fish, triggering a court case brought forward by environmental groups Ecology Action Centre and Living Oceans Society. The case is ongoing.
“GM salmon production threatens the future of wild Atlantic salmon,” said Calinda Brown of the Ecology Action Centre, “Retailers can protect consumers and the environment by making sure this GM fish never makes it to grocery store shelves.”
Major retailers in the US have already pledged not to sell the GM salmon.
The US company AquaBounty (now majority owned by biotechnology company Intrexon) says it initially plans to produce GM salmon eggs at its facility in Prince Edward Island in Canada, and ship the eggs to Panama for grow out and processing. However, the company has approval to raise the GM salmon in Canada.
(1) With less than 24 hours notice, Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency invited stakeholders to join a conference call on May 19 2016 for an “Update on a Regulatory Decision Related to Food.” This is the first time that federal regulatory agencies have announced a GM food approval outside of just notifying the company that requested approval and later posting the decision to government websites. For information on Canadian regulation see CBAN’s report www.gmoinquiry.ca/regulation