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Legal action launched to stop genetically-modified salmon

January 23, 2014

Living Oceans is taking part in a legal challenge against the federal government to block the commercial production of genetically modified (GM) salmon in Canada. We want to stop GM salmon because of the risk they pose to wild salmon populations which are already under pressure worldwide.

“This is the world’s first genetically modified food animal to go into production,” said Karen Wristen, Living Oceans Executive Director. “This was done without any public debate at all and under circumstances that look like a deliberate attempt to prevent public comment. Canadians have a right to know about decisions like this in advance of them being made.”

In November 2013 the federal Ministers of the Environment and Health approved AquaBounty’s application to export GM salmon eggs from its Prince Edward Island facility to Panama where they will be grown into fish for sale in the U.S. We want a court to decide if the government violated its own law by permitting the manufacture of GM salmon.

Will you please help us shed light on the government's decision to allow the commercial production of GM salmon?

Donate to our legal fund

Ecojustice lawyers are representing us in court. They’ll argue that the approval is unlawful because it failed to assess whether GM salmon could become invasive, potentially putting wild salmon and entire ecosystems at risk. Ecojustice provides lawyers’ services without charge but court costs, expert fees and other out-of-pocket expenses will have to be paid.

This case came up quite suddenly—neither the government nor AquaBounty would even admit that they were reviewing GM salmon for manufacture and export. When we found the notice in the Canada Gazette indicating that they had given the green light there were only 30 days to get into court. With no time to write funding applications, we had to act fast. We did so knowing that you've been generous with us in the past when urgent action was needed and in the fervent hope that you'll support us again as we fight to protect wild salmon.

Risks to wild salmon

Farmed fish escaping from open net-pens and hatcheries are a serious, ongoing problem that threatens wild fish. We already know that both feral juvenile Atlantic salmon as well as mature escaped non-GM farmed Atlantic salmon have been found in B.C. streams, meaning that they’re able to breed in the wild. Government reviews have found that GM salmon may be able to survive and breed in the wild and yet the decision to permit production and grow-out relies entirely on physical containment measures to prevent their escape.

The effects of an escape of GM fish into the wild, including potential interbreeding with wild salmon, could be irreversible. The full environmental impacts of GM fish will only be known if an escape happens. Any risk of GM salmon escaping into the wild is unacceptable, especially when their potential to become an invasive species has not been properly assessed and the future of Atlantic salmon is already threatened.

Genetic material from Chinook salmon and the eel-like species ocean pout were inserted into Atlantic salmon eggs to create AquAdvantage salmon. According to the fish manufacturer, AquaBounty Canada Inc., the genetically modified salmon grows to market size faster than conventional salmon.

No public information on GM salmon assessment

The entire process for assessing AquAdvantage salmon has been shrouded in secrecy. Environment Canada and AquaBounty refused to acknowledge that an assessment of the GM salmon was underway. There have been no public consultations on the GM salmon in Canada.

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