AquaBounty must submit new federal risk assessment for PEI facility

As opposition to the sale of genetically modified salmon in Canada grows, the Canadian government is requiring that AquaBounty's Prince Edward Island-based facility undergo a new federal risk assessment.

The assessment comes on the heels of seven companies and 21 environmental groups expressing concerns about the lack of mandatory GM food labelling to the Canadian government earlier this week. In a letter to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change (ECC), the groups and suppliers said better regulation of GM fish as well as mandatory GM food labeling is needed.

“Without mandatory labelling of GM salmon, we risk undermining consumer confidence in Canadian seafood,” said Franz Perrot, quality control manager at Lachine, Quebec-based seafood importer and processor Lagoon Seafood, in a statement from the groups. "We are listening to our consumers and they tell us they do not want them [GM foods]."

In addition to Lagoon, seafood companies DOM International Limited, Fou des Îles, Fumé du bon Côté Inc., Marché de Poisson Sherbrooke, L’Oeil Du Dragon Sushi, and Poissonnerie La Moulière signed the letter.

Organizations that signed the letter include: the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, SeaChoice, Living Oceans Society, and Greenpeace Canada, and Friends of Wild Salmon.

ECC told CBC News in May 2017 that its Rollo Bay, PEI facility would not require an additional federal environmental assessment. “But by July 2017, that position had changed,” CBC News wrote in a new article. 

ECC said the risk assessment is now needed because of AquaBounty’s plans to build a new egg production and grow-out facility in Rollo Bay, where it plans to produce 250 metric tons of AquAdvantage salmon.

“We are pleased that the assessment is underway because it means that fisheries scientists are now going to be discussing the risks. We were very concerned that fisheries scientists would not be asked to assess the risks of producing GM salmon,” Lucy Sharratt, coordinator of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, told SeafoodSource.

Environment Canada could have relied on its previous risk assessment of the facility, which just analyzed production of GM salmon eggs, not grow-out of the fish, according to Sharratt.

“This would have skipped over an actual assessment of the risks of growing out the GM fish,” she said.

AquaBounty’s policy is not to comment on regulatory issues, Dave Conley, the supplier’s spokesperson, told SeafoodSource.

While Canada is the only country in which GM salmon is approved for sale, more consumers, sushi restaurant chains, and others are speaking out against the fish.

Aki Sushi, which operates two restaurants and sushi stations inside 91 Metro supermarkets, as well as Yuzu Sushi, which operates 66 restaurants and 50 IGA stations, have both committed to not selling AquAdvantage salmon, according to Vigilance OGM, a network of NGOs in Quebec.

Metro, a large supermarket chain in Quebec, has also said it will not sell the GMO salmon, Thibault Rehn, coordinator of Vigilance OGM, told SeafoodSource. Plus, Sobeys, Loblaw, and Costco Canada have agreed not to sell AquAdvantage salmon.

“Consumers are asking restaurants and retailers if they are selling the GM salmon. We are increasingly needing to ask restaurants, retailers, catering companies and importers what they intend to do with the GM salmon because Canadians are asking for this information,” Sharratt said. “Mandatory labelling would eliminate much of the consumer concern and confusion in the market."

However, there are “enthusiastic buyers” of AquAdvantage salmon in Canada, AquaBounty’s former CEO, Ronald Stotish, told investors in September, after selling an 10 additional metric tons of its GM salmon to buyers in Canada.

“The response from the buyers was very enthusiastic,” Stotish said. "They put it in their high-end sashimi lines, not their frozen prepared foods.”

Image courtesy of AquaBounty


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