Environmental groups in Canada and Europe have major worries about AquaBounty’s genetically modified salmon, reports French television Channel LCI.
Genetically modified salmon, produced by US company Aquabounty, has been available in Canadian supermarkets since 2016. Early August AquaBounty announced that it had sold 4.5 tons of transgenic salmon over the past year.
It was the first time that a genetically modified animal has entered the market, and it caused strong reactions from environmental groups in Canada and Europe.
The groups are especially critical of the fact that the salmon is not labelled transgenic in Canadian supermarkets. This is possible because Canadian law makes labelling mandatory only if food has known health risks.
The transgenic salmon, branded AquAdvantage, contains a gene from a Chinook salmon and a promoter sequence from the ocean pout, to allow it to grow all year round. The fish reaches adult size in 16 to 18 months instead of 30, and uses only uses 75 percent of the feed needed for regular farmed salmon. Therefore, says the company, the gentech salmon has a substantially lower carbon footprint than other farmed salmon.
AquAdvantage salmon was licensed in Canada in May 2016, after four years of testing by the Canadian Department of Health and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. The fish are sterile and reared in isolated ponds in Panama and Canada.
Canadian environmental organisations have named the salmon ‘Frankenfish’ and are trying to put pressure on Canadian distributors, by using videos, among other things.
As a result several large Canadian retailers Sobeys (1800 stores), Loblaws (2000 stores) and the American company Costco, have decided that they will not sell AquaBounty’s ‘AquAdvantage’ salmon.
European Gen Tech regulations
Under European regulations, so far only one transgenic organism has been allowed: corn produced by US agrochemical company Monsanto. A long list of European countries – France, Greece, Austria, Hungary, Poland, Italy, Germany, Luxembourg and Ireland – do not allow farming of the corn, awaiting further research.
Genetically manipulated animals are not allowed so far in the European Union. But on September 21 the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) will come into effect, allowing free trade between Canada and the European Union.
Since the transgenic salmon is not labelled as such in Canada, it’s theoretically be possible that it could be exported to Europe. That is not very likely though, according to a spokesperson from the Dutch Ministry of Fisheries and Acquaculture.
“AquaBounty’s transgenic salmon is currently not allowed on the European market. New foods and ingredients that are not previously sold in the European Union, the so-called novel foods, will only be allowed on the market if approved by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).”
“If Aquabounty wants to sell this specific salmon in Europe, they must first apply to EFSA, which will judge whether it is in accordance with the latest food regulations,” she added.