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U.S. Rubber-Stamp of GM Fish Imminent?

U.S. approval would trigger corporate plans to produce genetically modified salmon eggs in Canada, but Environment Canada remains silent

October 11, 2011. The White House has confirmed that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has finished an environmental assessment of the genetically modified (GM) fast-growing Atlantic salmon called “AquaAdvantage”. The assessment is expected to be released to the U.S. public soon, for a 30-day comment period.

The FDA released a preliminary conclusion of safety in September 2010 at which time documents revealed that the U.S. company AquaBounty plans to produce all its GM salmon eggs in Prince Edward Island (PEI), Canada, and ship the eggs to Panama for grow-out and processing. The company has not asked for approval to grow the GM fish in the U.S.. If the FDA approves the GM Atlantic salmon for human consumption, it will do so based on the company’s specific plan to produce the GM fish eggs in PEI.

“AquaBounty has so far avoided a full environmental review by splitting its proposal between the U.S., Canada and Panama,” said Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, “Canada’s decision on GM salmon eggs is critical to the future of Atlantic salmon around the world, but Environment Canada remains silent on the risks and any review they might be conducting. Meanwhile, AquaBounty has assumed it will get approval to produce its GM salmon eggs in PEI.”

“AquaBounty has outsourced environmental risk to Prince Edward Island. We don’t want our province to be known around the world as the source of harm to wild Atlantic salmon stocks,” said Sharon Labchuk of Earth Action PEI, “Environment Canada needs to step up immediately to protect our fisheries and oceans from this threat. The department needs to open the door on its secret review process and consult Islanders.”

"The U.S. government should complete a comprehensive and independent Environmental Impact Statement instead of fast-tracking approval based on an incomplete and misguided environmental review of corporate data," said Eric Hoffman, Biotechnology Policy Campaigner at Friends of the Earth U.S., "If the FDA approves this genetically engineered salmon it will be ignoring evidence that these fish could seriously hurt wild salmon populations and marine ecosystems, all to benefit one small biotech company."

Hoffman will be in PEI (Charlottetown) speaking about the GM fish on October 24 as part of a series of public events across Atlantic Canada that also feature Jaydee Hanson of the Center for Food Safety U.S.; Lucy Sharratt of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network; and Leo Broderick of the Council of Canadians PEI. Other events will be held in Fredericton, New Brunswick (Oct 25); Halifax, Nova Scotia (Oct 26); and St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador (Oct 27).

For more information: Lucy Sharratt, Canadian Biotechnology Action Network 613 241 2267 ext 25 or cell 613 263 9511; Sharon Labchuk, EarthAction PEI, 902 621 0719 or cell 902 626 7327; Eric Hoffman, Friends of the Earth U.S., 202 222 0747 or cell 443 465 2219; www.cban.ca/events and www.cban.ca/fish

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