Federal agency fast-tracks approval of export permits for genetically modified salmon

The Council of Canadians has been opposing the sale of genetically modified salmon since September 2010.

AquAdvantage, produced by Massachusetts-based AquaBounty, is an Atlantic salmon that contains a growth hormone from a Chinook salmon and a gene from an ocean pout. The result is a fish that is large enough to eat in about a year and a half, rather than the typical three years. As such, the salmon are genetically modified to grow at twice the rate of regular salmon. The eggs for the salmon are raised in a facility in the eastern Prince Edward Island community of Bay Fortune and then exported to Panama where they are grown in tanks.

Now CBC reports, "The Canadian Food Inspection Agency fast-tracked safety tests on eggs from genetically modified salmon in order to hit an export deadline last year, according to internal government documents. [More than 600 pages of] documents obtained under Access to Information by researcher Ken Rubin and shared with CBC News show that veterinarians working in Prince Edward Island and other inspection offices of the CFIA were under 'pressure' to get the inspections for diseases and viruses done quickly. At one point, documents suggest the CFIA got permission to jump the queue over other pending tests to speed up the process and sent batches of eggs to three federal labs across the country for testing."

The article adds, "The salmon were approved for human consumption in May, 2016 in Canada, but leading up to that approval, AquaBounty was negotiating its first major permits for genetically modified salmon eggs for export to China, Argentina and Brazil for research. It was also seeking new permits to send eggs to Panama for commercial use. The CFIA's David Cameron says AquaBounty didn't get any special treatment. But the documents also show the CFIA was keenly aware of the commercial impact of the exports."

And the CBC report highlights, "According to the documents, between January and March 31 of last year, the CFIA approved all the new export permits for genetically modified salmon eggs for which AquaBounty applied. It has approved three more export permits for AquaBounty since then."

The Council of Canadians has also raised the concern that the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) could mean the export of genetically modified salmon to Europe.

Global Affairs has boasted, "When CETA comes into force, almost 96 percent of EU tariffs lines for fish and seafood products will be duty-free." Tariff rates on salmon, which now range up to 15 per cent, will be eliminated under CETA. And notably CETA establishes a mechanism in which Canada and the European Union can "discuss and attempt to prevent or resolve" non-tariff barriers relating to agricultural exports. This "regulatory cooperation" process would be a means for corporate interests to push against food standards that reject genetically modified foods.

The Council of Canadians is a member of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN) and shares their concern about the corporate pressure placed on CFIA and that the federal government's responsibility is to ensure that food products are safe, not that they meet export deadlines.

To read the full CBC News report, go to Exclusive - CFIA fast-tracked tests on genetically modified salmon eggs for exports, documents suggest

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