GM fish not just a US issue: Cross-border development violates Cartagena Protocol

By GM Watch

What’s happening with the FDA’s GM salmon approval is very disturbing, not least because this is an issue that has global implications, so it should not just be a US decision.  It clearly involves the cross-border movement of Living Modified Organisms, as the following press release makes clear. AquaBounty, the company producing the GM salmon, has submitted an Environmental Assessment to the FDA that relies on the scenario of producing eggs in Canada and shipping them to Panama for growing and processing, before shipping the processed fish to the US.

And while the company claims their GM fish will be sterile, it turns out that something like 5% of the eggs aren’t sterile, so the potential for accidents is there.

Only this week we saw yet another example of how GM accidents will happen, with news that BASF is responsible for an unapproved GM potato being planted in Sweden.

This is just the latest in a long line of accidents with GMOs, in which the biotech industry has shown itself incapable of controlling these organisms irrespective of regulations.

And it’s not only GM crops that have proved Murphy’s Law. For instance, when nearly 400 GM pigs accidentally entered the US food supply, the FDA said “it could not verify the researchers’ claim [that the pigs weren’t dangerous] because they failed to keep enough records.” (US biotech researchers careless with 386 pigs – FDA) A separate incident involving GM pigs also took place at the University of Florida. And there have been problems with GM animals in Canada too – for instance, with GM pigs unintentionally ending up in Canadian animal feed.

Given the numerous precedents for human error with GM higher life-forms, resulting in contamination, never mind the absolutely dire record of escapes at fish farms, it is not exactly difficult to imagine these GM fish – engineered to respond to permanent growth hormone – escaping into the wild.

As U.S. Decision on GE Fish Nears Final Stage, Company Reveals Plan to Produce GE Salmon Eggs in Canada

A Joint Release by:
Earth Action,
Ecology Action Centre,
Canadian Biotechnology Action Network,
Center for Food Safety,

Canadian groups are expressing concern that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is rushing the final stages of its process to evaluate the safety of genetically engineered (GE) salmon. According to documents released on Friday by the FDA, the company AquaBounty plans to produce all of its GE salmon eggs in Canada.

The Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN) has joined 30 U.S. consumer, animal welfare and environmental groups, fisheries associations and food retailers, in demanding the FDA deny approval to the GE fish. If approved for human consumption in the U.S., the GE salmon would be the first GE food animal permitted anywhere in the world. AquaBounty claims that its GE Atlantic salmon grows twice as fast as other farmed salmon.

After considering the company’s request for over 10 years, the FDA released some documents just two weeks before public meetings in the U.S., September 19-21, that precede its’ final decision. On September 3, the FDA published an environmental assessment done by consultants hired by AquaBounty that focuses exclusively on a plan to produce all GE salmon eggs at its facility in Bay Fortune, Prince Edward Island and then ship them to Panama for growing and processing, for retail sale in the US market.

“The company’s plan comes as a shock to Islanders,” said Sharon Labchuk of Earth Action in Prince Edward Island, “All this time the company has been planning to avoid production in the U.S. altogether and use its facility in PEI to supply GE salmon eggs for growing in Panama instead. I don’t think Islanders want to be the source of GE fish for unwilling U.S. consumers.”

“By approving the fish to be raised in Canada and Panama instead of the U.S., the FDA is side-stepping a full assessment of the environmental risks,” said Jaydee Hanson, policy analyst for the U.S. based Center for Food Safety. “The FDA is relying on an environmental assessment done by private consultants hired by the company. Under U.S. law an environmental assessment requires a much less rigorous review than a full environment impact statement.”

“The possible introduction of GE salmon raises many questions about the future implications for our marine environments and fisheries. Canada should not be offloading environmental risk to other countries while there is still so much uncertainty,” said Shannon Arnold, Marine Coordinator at the Ecology Action Centre Nova Scotia.

Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN), points out that Canada has not signed the international Biosafety Protocol, which governs the safe handling and transport of living modified organisms across boarders. “Canada could be compromising Panama’s biosafety regulations and undermining the Biosafety Protocol,” said Sharratt.

160 countries are parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, including Panama. Groups in Canada have been calling on the government to ratify the agreement for more than 10 years.

Ed. Note: “Accidents” are unintentional, but given the number of accidental releases of GMOs, we wonder if that is the appropriate term to be using anymore. Dropping a glass is accidental, but doing it several times indicates either intention or a medical problem. See also, Alien Forest, Alien Ocean, Alien Sky.

2 responses to “GM fish not just a US issue: Cross-border development violates Cartagena Protocol

  1. Most of the public, including ME, do NOT want this frankenfood interpolinating with our natural, organic, time-honored-safety food supply. The FDA is a joke – in the pocket of Monsanto – the octopus corporation!!!!

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