As Canada moves forward, new questions raised in Panama and refreshed calls for action in U.S.
Today, Center for Food Safety denounced the Canadian government’s decision to approve commercial production of genetically engineered (GE) salmon eggs on Prince Edward’s Island (PEI). In a dubiously complicated production scheme, the company responsible for the GE salmon plans to produce the eggs on PEI, ship them to be raised in a small facility in Panama, and then ultimately sell the GE fish to consumers in the United States. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not yet approved the GE salmon.
“We are alarmed and disappointed by the short-sightedness of this decision. GE salmon production, in Canada or anywhere else, threatens native salmon survival around the world. Center for Food Safety has spearheaded U.S. opposition to approval of this experimental GE fish for over a decade because of its inherent irreversible harms. Yet FDA has thus far refused to rigorously analyze the impacts of GE salmon. It must do so before even considering any approval,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director for Center for Food Safety.
Canada is the first government to grant approval to the company AquaBounty to raise its GE salmon for commercial production. It has previously only permitted the company to do research. The Canadian government has not yet approved the fish for consumption in Canada. If fully approved, it would be the first GE animal commercialized for human consumption. While approval is controversially moving forward in Canada, new questions about the viability of AquaBounty’s production plan and facilities are being raised elsewhere.
Late last week, a legal petition filed in Panama by the environmental group Centro de Incidencia Ambiental de Panama (CIAM) with Panama’s Environmental Agency revealed that AquaBounty’s experimental production facility is missing multiple legally required permits and inspections, including a wastewater discharge permit. The petition was supported by an international coalition of organizations including Center for Food Safety, Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, Food & Water Watch U.S., Food & Water Europe, Friends of the Earth, and GeneWatch.
Recent reports show the Panamanian facility to be far from the high-tech plant promised by AquaBounty in its application to FDA. Instead, it appears to be without simple precautions and shockingly vulnerable to extreme weather, such as flooding, which is common in the area.
Reports of fish escapes from the Panamanian facility have already surfaced and similar concerns have been raised in Canada about the AquaBounty facility on Prince Edward Island located only 120 feet from a major waterway known to still contain Atlantic salmon.
Salmon are farmed in industrial netpens in the open ocean, where millions escape every year. Although AquaBounty and the FDA have limited their assessment to only the Panama and Prince Edward Island facilities, documents uncovered through the Freedom of Information Act and the company’s own public pronouncements show that AquaBounty has no plans to stop there, and instead fully intends to grow the fish at other locations around the world, raising a myriad of other foreseeable risks, yet still completely unanalyzed.