Genetically modified salmon approved for sale in Canada

On May 19, Health Canada approved AquAdvantage Salmon, created by AquaBounty Canada Inc. for both human and livestock consumption.

The salmon are genetically modified to grow faster and therefor reach market size sooner than conventional farmed salmon, but studies found that it is otherwise the same as conventional salmon.

Though they are genetically modified, they will not be labelled as such when sold in stores because there are no health risks or significant changes to the nutritional qualities of the food.

“The science behind the salmon involved the introduction of a growth hormone gene from Chinook salmon into the genome of Atlantic salmon,” said Health Canada’s decision summary.

Genetically modified salmon will not be raised in B.C. anytime soon.

“Salmon farmers in B.C. are proud to produce the healthiest and freshest salmon in the world,” said the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association in a press release. “They do not farm or sell GMO salmon, nor are they researching or considering the possibility of raising transgenic fish.”

On the other hand, BIOTECanada welcomes the approval of GMO Salmon.

“This is a significant development for AquaBounty and the world’s population more broadly,” they said in a press release. “As the world moves rapidly towards nine billion people it is imperative that we find more effective and efficient ways to live our lives and grow our food.”

BIOTECanada is the national biotechnology industry association. There are over 200 members nation wide.

Health Canada received the request to allow for the sale of the salmon in 2012. AquaBounty Canada intended to sell the fish as fillets; live fish would not be imported.

Since then Health Canada, as well as the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Fisheries and Oceans Canada have conducted scientific assessments to ensure the safety and nutritional value of the GM salmon as well as environmental and indirect human health risk assessments.

Scientists with expertise in molecular biology, microbiology, toxicology, chemistry and nutrition conducted the assessment according to the Guideline for the Conduct of Food Safety Assessment of Foods Derived from Recombinant-DNA Animals. The assessment is based on scientific principals developed through consultation with agencies such as the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the Organization for the Economic Co-operation and Development.

AquaBounty is a small company of 23 employees with offices in Maynard Mass. and Fortune, P.E.I. According to their website they believe that modern genetics as well as technological advances in aquaculture production will create more responsible and sustainable way of farming Atlantic salmon.