Environmental groups challenge Canada's approval of genetically modified salmon

Saturday, February 01, 2014 by: Jonathan Benson, staff writer
Tags: genetically modified salmon, Canada, environmental groups

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(NaturalNews) The company responsible for developing genetically modified (GM) salmon that grows at twice the normal pace is the subject of a new lawsuit in Canada. reports that the Halifax-based Ecology Action Centre (EAC) and the British Columbia-based Living Oceans Society (LOS) are jointly taking Environment Canada to court for allegedly violating the law with its recent approval of the "frankenfish" in question, known commercially as AquAdvantage.

So far unsuccessful at convincing U.S. regulators to approve the mutant fish for Americans, AquaBounty, the maker of AquAdvantage, instead persuaded its more willing neighbors up north to take the plunge several months ago. But Canadian law requires that new approvals for GMOs be accompanied by solid evidence showing that they will not become invasive or put wildlife and ecosystems at risk, something that apparently was not done for the GM salmon.

"Canadians expect their government to implement, not ignore, the laws that protect our ecosystems from harm," says Tanya Nayler, an Ecojustice lawyer representing both EAC and LOS. "By granting approval for this genetically modified species without obtaining all the legally required information, the government has failed to meet their legal obligation."

'Frankensalmon' threatens to eliminate natural species, say opponents

According to the suit, Environment Canada failed to obtain a full environmental impact assessment from AquaBounty proving that its GM salmon product would not interact with wild salmon species and cause irreparable changes within their gene pools, for instance. Several key decision makers also allegedly failed to follow protocol with regard to collecting and publishing safety data on full-grown GM salmon.

"The concern is if there's a release into the environment, it's not possible to say at this point in time whether this new species of salmon could become invasive in the environment," adds Nayler, as quoted by

One requirement that was overlooked or simply ignored was the publishing of a waiver requested by AquaBounty to intentionally withhold data on the invasive tendencies of its GM salmon. A Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) risk assessment revealed that the request had been made, but Minister of the Environment Leona Aglukkaq apparently never published this waiver as required by law.

Canadian Minister of Health Rona Ambrose is also named in the suit, as she helped make the decision to approve AquAdvantage for commercial production. Both politicians are being accused of having acted unlawfully and without jurisdiction by publishing a notice concerning the approval of AquAdvantage in the Canada Gazette without all the legally required information.

Canadian public had no say in GM salmon approval

Worse is the fact that the Canadian public was excluded from the conversation on whether or not AquAdvantage should be commercialized. Though Canada's role in the production process for GM salmon would center primarily around egg cultivation -- the eggs would then be shipped to Panama to grow into adult fish -- the total lack of transparency as all of this was being discussed and finalized is highly concerning.

"This is the world's first genetically modified food animal to go into production," stated Karen Wristen, the Executive Director of LOS, to Ecojustice. "This was done without any public debate at all and under circumstances that look like a deliberate attempt to prevent public comment. Canadians have a right to know about decisions like this in advance of them being made."

You can keep up with the progress of the case and view copies of the official legal documents by visiting:

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