Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency have approved AquAdvantage Salmon, a genetically modified product, as safe and nutritious for humans and livestock as conventional salmon.
The agencies said in a statement on May 19 that genetically modified foods are becoming more common every day and are part of the regular diets of Canadians.
“Changes to the genes of plants and animals can improve food quality and production – for instance by reducing the need for presticides, making crops resistant to drought, preventing bruising, or allowing foods to be grown more quickly,” the agencies said.
AquaBounty plans to produce the genetically engineered salmon eggs on Prince Edward Island, Canada, and grow them to market size in Panama, where they would be processed into fillets, and then shipped to the U.S. for sale.
The product was created by AquaBounty from Atlantic salmon, Pacific king salmon and Arctic ocean eelpout.
The controversial product has much concern among those engaged in commercial fisheries in Alaska and beyond, and several thousand retail entities, including Costco stores, plus numerous restaurants have already vowed not to sell genetically modified fish.
The Food and Drug Administration said earlier this year that it would block all imports of AquaBounty’s GE salmon until the agency determined how to label it.
On March 31, a coalition of environmental, consumer and commercial and recreational fishing organizations sued the FDA for approving the product.
The plaintiffs, jointly represented by legal counsel from the Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice, includes Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, Institute for Fisheries Resources, Golden Gate Salmon Association, Kennebec Reborn, Friends of Merrymeeting Bay, Ecology Action Centre, Food & Water Watch, Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, Cascadia Wildlands, and Center for Food Safety.
The lawsuit challenges FDA’s claim that it has authority to approve and regulate GE animals as “animal drugs” under the 1938 Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.
Those provisions were meant to ensure the safety of veterinary drugs administered to treat disease in livestock and were not intended to address entirely new GE animals that can pass along their altered genes to the next generation, said the Center for Food Safety.
Approval of GE salmon opens the door to other genetically engineered fish and shellfish, as well as chickens, cows, sheep, goats, rabbits and pigs that are reportedly in development, the Center said.