Major “step forward” in commercial licensing of GM salmon

The Guardian reports, 26th November 2013: “Canada has given the go-ahead to commercial production of genetically modified salmon eggs, bringing the world’s first GM food animal closer to supermarkets and dinner tables.

In a decision buried in routine business in the Canada Gazette, Environment Canada said it had granted a US biotechnology firm, AquaBounty Technologies Inc, permission to export up to 100,000 GM fish eggs a year from a hatchery in Prince Edward Island to a site high in the Panamanian rainforest.

The decision marked the first time any government had given the go-ahead to commercial scale production involving a GM food animal.

The move clears the way for AquaBounty to scale up production of the salmon at its sites in PEI and Panama in anticipation of eventual approval by American authorities.

The Food and Drug Administration is expected to render a decision in the near future on the sale of GM salmon, and in due course some 30 other species of GM fish currently under development, campaigners and industry figures said.

The Canadian government said in its decision that the GM fish presented a high risk to Atlantic salmon, in the event of an escape, and a spokesman was adamant there would be no immediate sale or consumption of GM salmon eggs in Canada.“There are strict measures in place to prevent the release of this fish into the food chain,” an Environment Canada spokesman said by email. “In Canada, no genetically modified fish or eggs are currently approved for the purposes of human consumption.”

The GM fish splices growth genes from a Chinook salmon and a seal eel onto an Atlantic salmon – which AquaBounty claims enables the altered animal to grow twice as fast as a regular fish.

AquaBounty must still win approval to raise the fish on commercial scale from the authorities in Panama — and the site so far consists of just a few tanks at the end of an unpaved road. The company will also have to apply anew to the Canadian government if it wants to raise the fish commercially at any other site. AquaBounty must still obtain approval from the FDA before it can begin to try to bring the fish to market in America.

Source: The Guardian, 26th November 2013. For the full text, see http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/nov/25/canada-genetically-modified-salmon-commercial

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