THIRD WORLD NETWORK BIOSAFETY INFORMATION SERVICE
Dear Friends and colleagues,
Re: Canadian Scientists Have Reservations over GE Salmon
Government scientists in Canada warned that Canadian fish stocks could be harmed if the world’s first genetically engineered (GE) salmon, on the brink of release, is approved for commercialization. Internal official records also indicate that experts from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) are concerned about “limited” and possible constraints of the current Canadian regulations for GE fish.
The company behind the GE salmon is US-based AquaBounty, but it is developed in Canada using technology developed by scientists at Memorial University in Newfoundland. The company plans to produce the eggs of the fast-growing AquAdvantage in Prince Edward Island, home to AquaBounty’s research facility. The eggs would then shipped to Panama where the GE salmon would be raised in inland fish farms and processed before being shipped to US for sale.
The concerns expressed by Canadian scientists and officials are contrary to the US Food and Agriculture Department’s preliminary analysis which concluded that the GE salmon is safe and has no severe impact on the environment, and therefore had effectively given the green light for its go-ahead.
However, because of the project’s involvement in Canada, AquaBounty still has to undergo a separate regulatory approval process in Canada. And DFO officials and scientists are not so sanguine. According to internal documents, they have voiced their concerns of the potential risk of fish migrating back and affecting Canadian fish stocks. They also expressed concern that the present regulatory system in the country may not allow a comprehensive assessment to be conducted.
With best wishes,
Third World Network
131 Jalan Macalister,
Genetically engineered fish could pose threat to wild stocks: DFO scientists Montreal Gazette, Canada By Sarah Schmidt, Postmedia News, Canada (
22 February 2011
OTTAWA – There’s a risk Canadian fish stocks could be harmed if the world's first genetically engineered salmon is approved for commercialization, federal scientists suggest.
Internal records obtained by Postmedia News also indicate experts from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans are concerned about “limited” and possibly “constrained” regulatory powers around the approvals for GE fish.
The analysis, from senior scientists specializing in biotechnology and aquaculture, comes as a company called AquaBounty Technologies works to bring GE salmon to the dinner plate.
Hoping to get approval in the United States to sell the first genetically engineered fish that people can eat, the company cleared an important hurdle in August, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's preliminary analysis concluded that the salmon, engineered in Atlantic Canada to grow twice as fast as normal fish, are safe to eat and not expected to have a significant impact on the environment.
The AquAdvantage salmon contains a growth hormone gene from the Chinook salmon and a genetic on-switch from the ocean pout, resulting in the continuous production of the hormone. The salmon grows to market size in
16 to 18 months instead of three years, but does not grow any bigger than conventional salmon.
The company plans to produce the eggs in Prince Edward Island, home to AquaBounty's research facility, where the Massachusetts-based company currently grows sterile female GE salmon for research purposes. It uses technology developed by scientists at Memorial University in Newfoundland.
The eggs would then be shipped to Panama, where the genetically engineered Atlantic salmon would be raised at an inland fish farm and processed before getting shipped as table-ready fish to the U.S. for sale. The FDA‚s preliminary environmental analysis concluded it is “extremely unlikely that AquAdvantage Salmon would ever be able to survive and migrate to the Pacific Ocean.”
The Canadian connection means AquaBounty must undergo a separate regulatory approval process in Canada. During early consultations a year ago involving AquaBounty officials and scientists from the Department of Fisheries, Environment Canada and Health Canada, fisheries officials voiced concerns.
“DFO clarified that while the risk assessment will focus on potential effects in Canada, there is potential risk of fish migrating back to affect Canadian fish stocks,” according to the minutes, redacted in many places and released under access-to-information legislation.
“DFO requested that containment and limitations to which companies in other countries will have to comply be clearly outlined in the notification.”
In separate correspondence about draft minutes of this meeting, two government experts raised issues about the regulatory approvals process in Canada to approve GE fish.
Key passages of email correspondence between Caroline Mimeault, a scientific adviser at DFO’s Biotechnology and Aquatic Animal Health Science, and Robert Devlin, a world renowned DFO scientist who studies risk assessment of GE fish at the department’s Centre for Aquaculture and Environmental Research in West Vancouver, are redacted.
But the correspondence refers to limits and possible constraints of the current Canadian regulations for GE fish.
Mimeault wrote that she “totally agreed” with Devlin, “but we are limited by the current . . . regulations.”
Mimeault, citing another colleague's input about the kind of information that can be requested of a company seeking to commercialize GE fish, said the government “may be constrained” by the regulations.
This email exchange includes an attachment of a journal article Devlin co-wrote that found dispersal behaviour has been affected by introducing an outside gene into a fish, so GE fish may venture into habitat previously not used by wild fish.
The apparent concerns about assessments and regulations contradict newly released internal DFO media lines, prepared in May 2009 in case of journalists‚ questions about AquaBounty.
The Canadians regulations “currently provide an effective regulatory framework for protecting the environment from potential risks of GE fish,”
state the media lines.
Another draft of media lines, prepared in August 2010 by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, also shows that DFO scientists say there is a risk of contamination of wild species in the case of accidental escape of GE fish.
The draft stated: “The GE salmon are bred in contained, land-based systems and are reproductively sterile females, eliminating the threat of interbreeding amongst them or with native populations.”
But Mimeault, the DFO scientific adviser specializing in biotechnology and aquatic animal health, reviewed the media lines and took issue with the sweeping claim: “I would rather use a less definitive term such as ‘significantly reducing’‚ as opposed to ‘eliminating’‚ as we know that the possibility for accident release can never be completely eliminated and that the technology to render the fish reproductively sterile is not 100 per cent efficient.”
Lucy Sharratt, co-ordinator of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network and critic of AquaBounty’s efforts to commercialize its GE fish, said she’s worried inadequate regulations could hamper the ability of DFO scientists to carry out a comprehensive risk assessment of a GE fish application.
“The documents confirm the fish cannot be contained, infertility cannot be 100 per cent achieved, and when fish escape, there’s a risk it will come back to affect our fish stocks,” said Sharratt. “This could be a case of good scientists inside departments constrained by regulations.”
Michael Hansen, a scientist at the New York-based Consumers Union, said the concerns of federal fisheries experts are noteworthy.
“The real issue here is DFO are raising credible scientific issues because, frankly, the assessment that the FDA did was scientifically completely inadequate.”
Etiquetas: en, Fish, Salmon, Third World Network