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POLL: Canadians reject genetically modified fish

Postmedia News newspapers across the country are reporting this morning, “Support for genetically modified fish and animals is on the decline in Canada as more consumers grow skeptical of the federal government’s ability to regulate these high-tech food options, a government-commissioned poll has found.”

“Agriculture Canada commissioned the Harris/Decima survey last fall after government officials hosted a series of meetings with AquaBounty Technologies Inc., part of pre-notification consultations with the company, which is looking to bring its genetically engineered salmon to dinner plates. The fish are engineered in Prince Edward Island, home to AquaBounty’s research facilities, to grow to market size twice as fast as conventional salmon with a growth hormone gene from the Chinook and a genetic on-switch from the ocean pout.”

The article notes that, “More Canadians this year do not approve of GM fish, except under very special circumstances – 37 per cent compared with 24 per cent in 2006. …13 per cent of Canadians said they approve of GM fish as long as the usual level of government oversight and control is in place – an 11-point drop from five years ago. …Close to one in four (23 per cent) say they are not at all confident in the government’s ability to regulate GM fish – compared with 16 per cent in 2006. Meanwhile, the percentage of Canadians who are extremely or very confident in Ottawa’s regulatory oversight stands at 14, down from 19 per cent. …

The survey…cites ‘some erosion’ in confidence in the government’s safety and regulatory systems for biotechnology and a widening ‘regulatory gap’ in dealing with new technologies for the growing skepticism.” “Internal government records indicate some senior scientists from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans also have concerns, saying the government is ‘limited’ and ‘may be constrained’ by current regulations when considering an AquaBounty application to commercialize its research facility in P.E.I.”

The report also highlights that Canadians are skeptical about the so-called enviro-pig. “Confidence in Ottawa’s ability to regulate GM animals is even lower. Twenty-seven per cent said they are not at all confident, a four-point increase from 2006. Eleven per cent said they are extremely or very confident in Ottawa’s regulatory oversight of GM animals, a seven-point drop since 2006.”

The Council of Canadians, and in particular its vice-chair Leo Broderick, has opposed AquaBounty’s plans to produce its GE salmon eggs at Bay Fortune on Prince Edward Island. Broderick travelled to Maryland in September 2010 to attend US Food and Drug Administration hearings where dozens of US groups testified about the problems with the GE salmon and the gaps in the science. Broderick has also 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. In January 2011, Broderick secured a promise from the now recently re-elected Robert Ghiz government in PEI to pursue more transparency around export plans by AquaBounty. More on all this at http://canadians.org/search/node/aquabounty.