The Canadian federal government has launched a new risk assessment for AquaBounty’s new genetically modified (GM) salmon, following the company’s July 2018 announcement that it planned to build a new egg production and grow-out facility in Rollo Bay West, Prince Edward Island (PEI), according to Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC).
The company has been producing a limited number of eggs at its Bay Fortune, PEI, facility. But now AquaBounty Technologies now plans to produce 250 metric tons of its AquAdvantage salmon for commercial sale both in Canada and abroad.
In May 2017, ECCC said that the project could be completed without an additional federal environment assessment. However, by July 2017, the company had changed its position on the matter.
Minister Catherine McKenna wrote:
“Should AquaBounty wish to manufacture or grow out the AquAdvantage salmon at this site, a new notification will be required.”
AquaBounty provided that notification on July 28, 2018.
The new review will look at the latest information to determine if the GM salmon presents any risks to human health or the environment. Both Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency approved the AquAdvantage salmon for sale as food in Canada in 2016.
Several environmental and wild salmon conservationist groups pushed for the new safety assessment after AquaBounty announced the new facility.
Lucy Sharratt, the coordinator of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, is pleased that the new assessment is moving forward.
“It is a relief … We didn’t know what the assessment was going to look like, and we won’t know until it is concluded, until the decision is made. But certainly, this is what we need. We need all of the scientific expertise available to really look at this issue of the GM salmon. Is it a risk to wild Atlantic salmon?”
The groups expressed concern over the lack of mandatory GMO food labeling in Canada, – also a concern in the United States – earlier this week. The groups and suppliers said in a letter to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change (ECC) that better regulation of fish and mandatory food labeling is necessary. 
Franz Perrot, quality control manager at Lachine, Quebec-based seafood importer and processor Lagoon Seafood, in a statement from the groups:
“Without mandatory labeling of GM salmon, we risk undermining consumer confidence in Canadian seafood. We are listening to our consumers and they tell us they don’t want them [GM foods].”
A number of restaurants and retailers in Canada have previously pledged not to sell AquAdvantage salmon at their establishments. The same is true of some retailers in the U.S., including Costco, as well as Kroger, and Safeway.
“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. Mandatory labeling would eliminate much of the consumer concern and confusion in the market.”
More than 2 million Americans voiced their opposition to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval of AquAdvantage salmon, but the agency approved the transgenic fish for sale and consumption anyway. The salmon was also approved despite concern by the Canadian government that the salmon is “prone to disease”.
Genetic Literacy Project – Featured image source