Canada Approves Genetically Modified Salmon for Sale After Claiming ‘Rigorous Scientific Review’
The Canadian government has made the controversial and alarming decision to approve its first genetically modified food animal for sale in Canada. Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency made the announcement at a conference in Ottawa, explaining that AquaBounty’s genetically modified salmon has been approved for sale as food, as reported by CBC News.
Health Canada claims that a final round of “thorough and rigorous” scientific reviews have found that AquaBounty’s AquAdvantage salmon is as safe and nutritious as natural, non-GM salmon. However, just how “thorough and rigorous” can these tests have been, when they have not been conducted over a considerable period of time? How can we know the lifelong impacts of eating GM salmon?
The U.S. FDA approved AquaBounty’s GM salmon back in 2010, however it wasn’t until November 2015 that the agency decided it was safe for human consumption. Since then, the company has been investigated over the accidental release of GM salmon into the wild.
AquaBounty’s AquAdvantage salmon grow twice as fast as conventionally-farmed Atlantic salmon because of their altered genes.
But AquaBounty has recently been fined for losing track of GM salmon in Panama during barely regulated experiments. According to Natural News, the company was ordered to pay nearly the maximum possible fine for multiple violations of environmental law in its experimental GM salmon-growing operation. Many activist groups – including Food & Water Europe, Food & Water Watch, the Center for Food Safety, and Friends of the Earth U.S. – have called on the FDA to reject AquaBounty’s pending application for the commercialization of GM salmon in the U.S.
Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Europe, stated: “The FDA has always assured the public that it is checking, monitoring and regulating AquaBounty’s production platform to ensure that the company can mitigate the well-documented environmental impacts of escaped GM salmon. … We now know that AquaBounty is unwilling or unable to follow basic rules and regulations, and that the FDA is unable or unwilling to enforce them. It’s time to put an end to this dangerous experiment.”
Meanwhile, there is another lawsuit underway that challenges the FDA’s approval of GM salmon for human consumption, “without considering or fully disclosing the environmental and other risks of this unprecedented decision,” as reported by CBC News. The lawsuit alleges that there are many possible risks, including:
- Salmon escaping from facilities, in a situation similar to what happened in Panama, and interbreeding with wild, endangered salmon;
- Escaped salmon competing with endangered wild salmon for food or passing on infectious diseases;
- Financial impacts on salmon fisheries and their employees;
- Risks to ecosystems as a result of the introduction of an “invasive species.”
Health Canada claims: “GM foods are becoming more common every day and are part of the regular diets of Canadians. GM foods that have been approved by Health Canada have been consumed in Canada for many years, and are safe and nutritious. … Changes to the genes of plants and animals can improve food quality and production,” as reported by CBC News.
However, environmentalists and scientists alike are concerned that AquAdvantage salmon is not safe for human health or the environment. A major concern is the fact that if and when the GM salmon escape into the wild, their appetites will not be dictated by season or natural cycles – whereas the appetites of natural wild salmon are. This means that GM salmon could exhaust essential nutrients and out-compete wild salmon for food, seriously damaging wild salmon populations.