PEI Approval of Rollo Bay Facility Puts Wild Salmon at Risk, Groups Say

By Canadian Biotechnology Action Network

Charlottetown, June 27, 2017: Today, local and national environmental groups expressed profound concern over a decision by the Government of Prince Edward Island to approve construction of the world’s first factory to grow genetically modified (GM, also called genetically engineered) fish.

“GM salmon poses a major risk to wild salmon, yet there has been no federal scientific assessment of the commercial production of this organism,” said Mark Butler of Ecology Action Centre. “A recent parliamentary report raised serious concerns about the approval process for GM animals and the federal minister of the Environment needs to step in right away.”

The company AquaBounty was given provincial approval to construct a new facility at Rollo Bay in PEI to produce GM Atlantic salmon. This approval follows a 2013 federal environmental approval for egg manufacturing that many groups contest is unclear.

“The risk assessment done for the 2013 decision was limited to the one facility and the production of a fixed number of eggs,” said Karen Wristen, Living Oceans Society. “No-one has assessed the risk of growing adult fish, or the risk to native Atlantic salmon if they escape.”

The groups are calling on the federal government to fulfill its duty to assess whether the GM fish are “toxic or capable of becoming toxic” in the marine environment, under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

“The federal government approved GM salmon egg production in PEI under a veil of secrecy. The public was not allowed to comment or intervene, and in fact, was not even notified that AquaBounty had made an application,” said Sharon Labchuk of Earth Action PEI. “We’re disappointed the PEI government chose not to take the higher ground and demand a national discussion on this issue before approving this GM fish factory.”
The company says it plans to grow 250 metric tonnes of GM fish in PEI every year. A year ago, AquaBounty bought the facility at Rollo Bay PEI saying that it would not produce GM fish there. The company has been producing GM salmon eggs in PEI to export to Panama for research and development.

“This decision has far reaching consequences not only for PEI and Atlantic Canada but for the entire globe,” said Mary Boyd of the MacKillop Centre for Social Justice. “It is a reckless decision made by a few people without consultation on the approval of a questionable species that consumers won’t even be able to identify if and when it reaches the market.”

Current labelling regulations in Canada would not require GM salmon to bear distinctive labels in stores. The only legal requirement for the label is to describe the product as “salmon”.

Image credit: Pixabay

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