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NEWS: Environment Canada deciding on parameters of environmental safety study of GM salmon

Postmedia News reports, “Environment Canada isn’t sure it can fully protect wild fish stocks if it approves the commercialization of a hatchery of genetically engineered salmon eggs. The admission, outlined in internal records obtained by Postmedia News, could stymie efforts by American company AquaBounty Technologies to sell the first genetically engineered animal that people can eat. The company’s plan is to transform its research facility in Prince Edward Island into a commercial hatchery to produce GM salmon eggs. The eggs would then be sent to an inland fish farm in Panama where the GE Atlantic salmon would be raised and processed before being shipped as table-ready fish to the US.”

“Last year, a preliminary analysis by the US Food and Drug Administration concluded that the salmon…are safe to eat. The FDA also said in its preliminary analysis that the GE salmon were not expected to have a significant impact on the environment. …Even if the US approves AquaBounty’s application to sell GE salmon there, the company will still need approval from Environment Canada to manufacture the GE fish eggs in Prince Edward Island. Approval falls under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.”

“It poses a dilemma for Environment Canada, which has to determine whether to concern itself only with the production and transportation of GE fish eggs from PEI to Panama when considering AquaBounty’s hatchery application, or whether the federal government also has a duty to consider wider potential effects GE fish could have on this country or the global environment if the fish ever escaped the Panamanian facilities and migrated into Canadian or international waters.”

“According to the internal records released under access to information law, prepared last year in anticipation of a formal application from AquaBounty to operate its hatchery, Environment Canada concluded that the narrower oversight option – while ‘easily enforceable by inspecting shipments at the port of export’ in Canada – ‘falls short’ of meeting Canada’s legal obligations under CEPA ‘because it does not fully consider potential effects within Canada.’ Noting there’s also a ‘broad legislative requirement under CEPA to assess potential risks to the global environment’, Environment Canada recommended that the scope of the environmental risk assessment to take a ‘fulsome approach’. At a minimum, any risk assessment should provide ‘for the full protection of the Canadian environment, in particular Canadian fish stocks,’ the document states.”

Council of Canadians
vice-chairperson Leo Broderick will be on a 4-city speaking tour on this issue shortly. He will be in Charlottetown on October 24; Fredericton on October 25; Halifax on October 26; and St. John’s on October 27, http://canadians.org/events/index.html. Broderick travelled to Maryland in September 2010 to attend US FDA hearings where dozens of US groups testified about the problems with the GE salmon and the gaps in the science, http://canadians.org/blog/?p=4102. In January 2011, he and others gained a commitment from the premier of PEI to play a more active role in trying to get Environment Canada to be more transparent and to ask for the provincial government to be part of the federal environmental risk study, http://canadians.org/blog/?p=5116. Broderick has appeared in numerous media reports on this issue including in the Toronto Star, the Vancouver Sun, the Winnipeg Free Press, the Charlottetown Guardian, and the CBC.