Guest blog by the Ecology Action Centre
In late 2013, the federal government approved commercial development of genetically modified Atlantic salmon in Canada. The company seeking approval — AquaBounty Technologies — has facilities in Prince Edward Island where eggs are started and then shipped to Panama to grow into full-sized fish. The GM Atlantic salmon contains genetic material from chinook salmon and an eel-like creature named ocean pout. These genes are inserted into the Atlantic salmon to make it grow faster. Conventional farmed salmon take three years to grow to market size, whereas the GM salmon only take 18 months.
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Two Canadian conservation organizations are taking the federal government to court for failing to properly assess the true impacts that GM salmon could have on wild Atlantic salmon stocks. The Ecology Action Centre and Living Oceans Society, represented by Ecojustice, will argue that Environment Canada has underestimated the potential for GM salmon to interbreed with wild salmon and negatively affect the ecosystem. A federal court will hear the case November 17 and 18.
Approval of GM salmon has been controversial in North America. Some U.S. states, such as California, have banned the salmon because of risks posed to wild salmon populations. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has yet to make a decision on whether it will be allowed to be consumed by humans. It's estimated that up to five per cent of GM salmon could interbreed with wild Atlantic salmon if they manage to escape into the wild. Over 60 retail chains in the U.S. have pledged not to sell GM salmon.
Wild Atlantic salmon are already endangered in many regions and face threats including habitat loss, pollution and diseases from farmed salmon. GM salmon could permanently change the very nature of Atlantic salmon.
With the risks of this type of technology so high, the public should have been consulted. Send a message to Health Canada to protect wild Atlantic salmon by stopping this new GM technology.
Note: Both Environment Canada and Health Canada have some responsibility on whether GM salmon goes to market in Canada