Federal Court Will Hear Appeals Regarding Approval of GM Salmon

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Groups appealing production approval for genetically-modified salmon eggs in P.E.I.

In Federal Court later this week, Environmental groups will attempt to overturn the decision (made by Environment Canada) to approve genetically-modified salmon eggs for production. They argue that the process is much too shrouded in mystery and that this does not bode well as an indicator of things to come in the industry.

According to the Living Oceans Society and The Ecology Action Centre, Environment Canada was, even by their own standards, not thorough enough in their assessment of the company that sought approval to produce the eggs.

Ecology Action Centre member Mark Butler argues that if the GMO salmon were to ever somehow escape from their enclosures (which are on land) and integrate with a wild population, that there could be unintentional and unpredictable results.

Before he left for Ottawa, he stated that the moment modified salmon happened to breed with wild ones, the consequences could simply never be undone.

»These salmon are genetically modified to grow slightly faster than their wild counterparts, so that they can be farmed and consumed within a short span of time. Though this is a huge advantage for farmed fish, the results on wild fish if genetic pollution did indeed occur is unknown, though it could easily negatively impact the supply of wild fish..«

Growing Salmon 100% Faster

A company in Massachusetts called AquaBounty Technologies claims to have realized a method of growing Atlantic salmon twice as quickly as current methods through the genetic modification of their eggs. They took genes from ocean pouts and chinook salmon to produce this breed of fast-growing fish.

Since way back in 1995, the firm has been attempting to receive approval from the U.S. government to put their fish on the market, but no North American country has yet deemed the fish officially fit for consumption by humans. Recently, however, in a significant turn of events, Environment Canada has approved egg production.

Ecojustice lawyer, Kaitlyn Mitchell, is arguing against the approval of the technology, by using the Canadian Environmental Protection Act , and its clauses concerning living products resulting from the use of biotechnology, as an unusual basis.

She states that this is a very critical moment in the debate on GMOs because these fish are the first genetically-modified animals to potentially be approved for human consumption, and this landmark decision could set a precedent one way or the other.

‘We’re talking about potentially the first genetically-modified food animal in the world.’– Kaitlyn Mitchell

Mark Butler remarks that the environmentalists’ chances of success may be bolstered by the relatively Liberal federal government that was recently elected. Considering their stance on climate change, he reasons, they may take a similarly cautious stance on other environmental issues such as this one.

Case is ‘completely without merit’

A spokeswoman for Environment Canada said she couldn’t discuss the case because it was before the courts, but maintained that a thorough risk assessment of the salmon was done.

“This risk assessment concluded that there were no concerns identified to the environment or to the indirect health of Canadians due to the contained production of these GM fish eggs,” Maria Ivancic said in an emailed statement.

The suit contends the government failed to take into account information required by legislation, including test data on toxicity, invasiveness and pathogenicity.

AquaBounty’s plan is for the genetically modified fish to be grown in Panama and then later in other facilities, pending approval by U.S. authorities.

Ron Stotish, the company’s CEO, said in a statement that, “AquaBounty is confident the Government of Canada will prevail in this action, and we believe the case brought by the two non-governmental organizations is completely without merit.”

In a November release, AquaBounty said Environment Canada’s approval was based on a close study of its hatchery facility in P.E.I., and the opinion of a panel of independent scientific experts through the department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Source: CNC News



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