Here is an update from the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network. It is an organization that promotes ‘food sovereignty and democratic decision-making on science and technology issues in order to protect the integrity of the environment, health, food, and the livelihoods of people in Canada and around the world. They inform, organize civil society action, conduct research and provide information to the Canadian government for policy development’.
I have previously written about their efforts to keep genetically engineered alphalpha seeds out of Canada. The Canadian Government allowed these seeds to be sold in eastern Canada for spring 2016 planting. Why is this such a big deal?
“This would be a disaster for farmers because, once it has been planted, there would be no way to stop the GM trait from spreading to organic and conventional farms and crops. There are many domestic and export markets that completely reject alfalfa seeds, hay or pellets with any GM content. Clearly, the Minister needs to take action to protect the interests of Canadian farmers before it is too late.” – Jan Slomp, President, National Farmers Union, March 24, 2016.
On May 19, 2016, Health Canada approved a genetically modified Atlantic salmon. The company AquaBounty (now majority owned by biotechnology company Intrexon) claims the salmon grows faster with less feed. “The salmon are genetically engineered with a growth hormone gene from Chinook salmon and genetic material from ocean pout (an eel-like creature). If the company starts producing the GM fish and grocery stores sell it, it will be the first GM food animal in the world.”
AquaBounty’s website states the following benefits of their AquAdvantage© Salmon:
- Modern Genetics – In 1989, Dr. Garth Fletcher and his research team at Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada discovered that a novel application of molecular genetics could significantly increase the growth of Atlantic salmon.
- AquAdvantage© Salmon go from egg to ‘ready for market’ in 18 months compared to ‘traditional’ salmon which takes 3 years.
- Sustainable farming – AquAdvantage© Salmon requires 25 percent less feed (wild fish) to achieve market readiness than traditional Atlantic Salmon.
- Small carbon footprint and the freshest protein as salmon are grown inland in close proximity to metropolitan areas, making the trip from ‘farm to table’ a short one
This approval of GM salmon in Canada has been challenged in court by several environmental groups. Here is information directly from CBAN about what is currently happening and what the public can do to get informed and take action:
A recent court case in Canada has failed to overturn the government’s approval of the GM salmon but your actions are already closing the market to GM fish and you have a new, important opportunity to demand mandatory GM food labelling.
1. New Action!Click here to send your instant letter to demand GM food labelling, before the GM fish comes to market! – to the Chair and Vice-Chairs of the House of Commons Agriculture Committee. For more info: www.cban.ca/animals
2. Send your letter to the grocery chain Loblaws, to ask company President Galen Weston to keep GM salmon out of their stores firstname.lastname@example.org Or contact other grocery stores here: http://cban.ca/content/view/full/1903 For more info on GM fish: www.cban.ca/fish
Judges in Canada have ruled against two environmental groups, in favor of the government and the company AquaBounty in a case that challenged the approval of genetically modified (GM) salmon. This means GM salmon could be produced soon – except consumer action is already closing the market to the GM fish. CBAN is closely tracking developments and you can read our updates from the Federal Court of Appeal and Parliament Hill below.
In a blow to precautionary science, Canada’s Federal Court of Appeal has ruled against two environmental groups that challenged the government’s approval of GM salmon production. The court heard arguments from Ecojustice lawyers in the appeal but the judges decided against Ecology Action Centre (NS) and Living Oceans Society (BC), in favour of the federal government’s decision to approve GM salmon and salmon eggs for commercial production in Canada. You can read statements from the groups here: http://www.ecojustice.ca/pressrelease/federal-court-of-appeal-ruling-on-approval-of-gm-salmon-production/
GM salmon and GM salmon eggs can now be grown anywhere in Canada, as long as they are grown in a contained facility on land. The government approved the production of the GM salmon and eggs, even though AquaBounty only requested approval to produce GM salmon eggs, and the government approved production of GM salmon or GM salmon eggs anywhere in Canada, even though AquaBounty only asked to produce the GM salmon eggs in PEI. The groups argued that allowing this range of uses at facilities across the country was contrary to the scientific evidence before the Ministers.
The court heard the case on Thursday morning October 18 in Ottawa – at the same time and only doors away, a representative of the plaintiff Ecology Action Centre was testifying about the GM salmon at House of Commons Agriculture Committee hearings! That day, in testimony that surprised many Committee members, Ruth Salmon from the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance stated, “While we do not oppose the approval of genetically modified salmon, our customers in Canada and around the world are not demanding it. We do not need nor do we intend to employ genetically modified salmon technology in Canada.” She also said the Alliance would support the government if it made the decision to establish mandatory GM food labelling. Write to the Agriculture Committee today and demand GM food labelling, before the GM fish comes to market:www.cban.ca/labelGMfish
The aquaculture industry rejection of the GM salmon reflects the market reality that no one wants to eat it. It also appears to reflect the reality that the GM salmon may not, in fact, grown much faster than the farmed salmon already being grown around the world. (You can click here to read CBAN’s challenge to some of AquaBounty’s statements, submitted to the House of Commons Committee)
The House of Commons Agriculture Committee has finished its hearings on “Genetically Modified Animals for Human Consumption” but you can still have your voice heard. The Committee is currently drafting its report that will be submitted to Parliament by December 8. Send your letter today!
In September and October, CBAN testified at House of Commons Committee hearings on GM animals, submitted a briefing to the Committee, tracked all the Committee hearings, notified Canadians about the hearings with information about how to participate, and we observed court proceedings on the GM fish. Donate to support Canada’s GMO watchdog www.cban.ca/donate
Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator
Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN)
Collaborative Campaigning for Food Sovereignty and Environmental Justice
Suite 206, 180 Metcalfe Street
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, K2P 1P5
Phone: 613 241 2267 ext. 25