NEWS: Trade imperatives could prompt approval of GE salmon in Canada

Postmedia News reports, "Canada could have trouble keeping genetically engineered salmon out of the food supply if the U.S. government approves the first genetically engineered animal that people can eat."

Why? "(An Agriculture Canada memo says), 'If the product enters the U.S. market before it is approved to enter the Canadian food supply, it could result in bilateral trade complications. Canadian importers would need to ensure that any salmon or salmon product brought to Canada does not contain illegal GE salmon. Given the complexity of supply chains — particularly for processed foods — this could be difficult... We want to work closely with the U.S. to ensure our approval processes for GE animals compliment (sic) one another and that we avoid any potential bilateral complications. Canada-U.S. regulators work closely together on an ongoing basis, but perhaps there is merit in seeking specific opportunities for them to meet and talk about GE animals'..."

What might the Harper government do? "According to an internal analysis obtained by Postmedia News, one potential solution is to simply follow the U.S. lead, in order to avoid trade complications. That would mean allowing the GE fish in the Canadian market."

"From (Carleton University trade policy specialist) Michael Hart's perspective, the memo drafted for a bilateral meeting of agriculture officials is an 'unexceptional brief and fairly responsible one'. (He) said the authors of the memo review the 'implications of not being on the same page' while operating under the general requirement that, 'to the extent possible, they should avoid regulatory friction just for the sake of being different'... The problem is Health Canada, 'typically being slower' than its U.S. counterpart, is often playing catch up, added Hart. 'You know, they wait for everybody else to decide and then they make the same decision. It hasn't reached that stage yet and that might create some short-term trade problems. We've been working for years to create an integrated market and an integrated market requires that you smooth out as many as these problems as you can.'"

"Leo Broderick sees things differently. The vice-chair of the Council of Canadians says the regulatory process for approving a GE animal in Canada is different — and that's a good thing, even if it means food inspections would need to be beefed up to ensure the GE salmon doesn't enter the food system in Canada. 'If it's approved in the United States as a veterinary drug, then it will have to undergo an evaluation in Canada as a novel food, and I expect the scrutiny will be much tighter here in Canada,' said Broderick, based in Charlottetown."

The article notes, "Even if the U.S. approves AquaBounty's application to sell GE salmon as food in the U.S., the company will need approval from Environment Canada to manufacture the GE fish eggs in Prince Edward Island, to be shipped to Panama. Approval falls under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA). And if the company wants to sell its GE salmon as food in Canada, AquaBounty would be required to receive approval from Health Canada. Unlike in the U.S., Canada considers a GE animal to be a novel food, not a new animal drug. As of June 2010, the department had yet received such an application from AquaBounty, the memo states. Health Canada says it can't say whether this has changed in the past 18 months, citing confidentiality. AquaBounty has also declined to say whether it has filed a submission with Health Canada."

For Council of Canadians blogs related to AquaBounty and the campaign against approval of genetically engineered salmon in Canada and the United States, please see