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Canadians Used as ‘Guinea Pigs’ With GM Salmon

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World’s first genetically modified animal for human consumption in Canadian groceries without notice

Genetically modified (GM) salmon is now on Canadian supermarket shelves and about 5 metric tons (5.5 tons) have been sold in recent months without consumers’ knowledge, an environmental group said Thursday.

The fish, the world’s first genetically-modified animal to enter the food supply, was given the green light for sale by Health Canada last May, but no one was told when or where the GM salmon would be imported and sold. The news of the seafood concoction's arrival caught environmental groups by surprise.

“The GM salmon is approved for human consumption in Canada but we did not expect it to land on the market this soon, with no information,” Lucy Sharratt, co-ordinator for the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network in Ottawa said. “The GM salmon was put on the market in Canada sometime between April and July, but we only found out in August.”

There is debate whether the genetic change poses a health risk for human consumption. Further, if the farmed raised fish escapes into the ecosystem, critics say it could be a threat to other fish such as wild salmon.

“We are particularly concerned about the environmental risks if this salmon becomes widely produced,” Sharratt told Anadolu Agency.

The American firm, AquaBounty, based in Massachusetts, takes Atlantic salmon and modifies it with a growth hormone gene from Chinook salmon. The result is a fish that grows much more rapidly than normal – adult size in 16 - 18 months instead of 30 months – and AquaBounty said it has shipped about 5 metric tons to unspecified supermarkets in Canada.

“There is no mandatory labeling in Canada to help consumers identify GM food on the shelves,” Sharratt said. “So Canadians have been eating GM salmon without knowing. There was no public announcement about the market production and we do not know where the GM salmon is on grocery store shelves or restaurants.”

As of now, the product is available only in Canada and that caused the Montreal-based environmental group, GMO Vigilance, to warn on its website Canadians are “guinea pigs”.

However, after three years of study, Health Canada told Canadian media as early as May 2016, “the changes made to the salmon do not pose a greater risk to human health than salmon currently available on the Canadian market.”

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