October 28, 2011


Activists warn about GM salmon in New Brunswick


The Canadian Biotechnology Action Network is travelling across New Brunswick to speak about AquaBounty Technologies' genetically modified (GM) Atlantic salmon, and believes the fish is potentially hazardous to both humans and wild salmon stocks despite AquaBounty's refutations.


AquaBounty's genetically engineered (GE) salmon grows twice as fast as wild salmon.


The company intends to turn its research facility on Prince Edward Island (PEI) into a commercial hatchery to grow GM salmon eggs, which get sent to an inland fish farm in Panama, where the GE salmon are raised for clinical testing purposes.


"In splitting up the request for approval between three countries, they've actually managed to avoid a full environmental assessment," noted Lucy Sharratt of the Action Network, Telegraph-Journal reports.


The group worries that GM salmon will pose risks to human health and jeopardise wild stocks if engineered fish escape.


AquaBounty refutes that it has created safeguards to protect wild salmon and will raise only sterile females in contained land-based facilities.


"Our research and our operations are in full compliance with all requirements of Canada, and we are routinely inspected by agencies of the Canadian and US governments," Ronald Stotish, AquaBounty president and CEO, said.


AquAdvantage salmon offers an environmentally friendly solution for the future, when it is estimated that wild salmon stocks will be on the brink of collapse and global demand for high-protein meat will soar, he explained.


"Our technology can help meet the future need for high quality protein in an environmentally sustainable manner and has the potential to create jobs and reduce the carbon footprint of salmon aquaculture," he said.


AquaBounty's hatchery on PEI has been approved by Environment Canada as a research and development facility, but the company wants to make it commercial. Its eggs could then be sent to grow anywhere with US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for import into the US.


"The province of New Brunswick should be consulted before PEI, the Maritimes, becomes the source of genetically modified salmon eggs for the world," Sharratt said.


Conversely, University of New Brunswick biology professor, Tillman Benfey, does not think a ban is necessary. He was part of international scientific reviews that found AquaAdvantage salmon is safe for human consumption, CBC News reports.


"The FDA has effectively said that from a scientific perspective there is no concern for human health, but they haven't made their final decision I think largely because of the large amount of feedback they got from people who opposed this," he said.

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