Canada Approves Genetically Modified Salmon – Environmental Groups Not Pleased

Published September 17, 2014

aquacultureA recent decision by the Canadian government to allow the world’s first genetically modified fish to be put into production has some environmental lawyers as well as some citizens up in arms. The “Frankenfish” as it has been dubbed is a salmon which through genetic modification can grow at approximately twice the pace as a naturally grown salmon. This version of salmon was created by company AquaBounty Technologies, which have also genetically modified trout and tilapia.

With the constantly rising populations around the world, aquaculture has become the most rapidly advancing part of the agriculture industry. It is estimated that in 2011 Salmon aquaculture, which is fish farming fish under controlled conditions, produced approximately 1.9 million tons of salmon.

The concern with this type of “farming” lies partly in the fact that AquaBounty Technologies has failed to provide a comprehensive environmental impact study. As with any type of genetically modified food, studies must be completed to assure the public that wild species of salmon will not cross breed with the genetically modified species, thereby permanently corrupting the wild species line. The new species could become invasive to the point that the wild species could become extinct.

Lawyers for both the Ecology Action Centre and the Living Oceans Society are encouraged by the reaction from the public, who were not given a chance to voice their opinions on the matter. It is a matter of law that any waivers be published so that the public may weigh in on any matters concerning their safety. Apparently the Minister of the Environment decided to forego this publication and has been named in this lawsuit. The Canadian Minister of Health has also been named, both for acting unlawfully and without jurisdiction for publishing an approval notice for AquaAdvantage in the Canadian Gazette.

It is worth noting that AquaBounty is committing to cultivating sterile female fish so that the fish could not reproduce. They also have acquired land for their fish tanks that is well inland of any waterways so that there would be no chance of a genetically modified fish entering into the wild.

Those who are pro GMO fish will claim that their studies prove no side effects from eating GMO fish, and those on the other side will claim just the opposite. The fact is that only time will tell; it is only after consuming the fish over a period of time that researchers will be able to determine the effects on the human body. Toxins can sometimes take years to harm the body’s internal organs and until the proper studies are conducted by impartial groups these fish should be treated with caution. As the possible consumers of these genetically modified fish we should be given the opportunity to debate the issue, and also the ability to know if we are being sold genetically modified organisms with proper labeling. Those who are willing to stand up and fight for the public must remain strong in their convictions.

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