© Guardian photo by Ariel Sharratt
Noreen Payne of Fortune Bridge voices her concerns about genetically engineered salmon at a press conference Thursday.
BAY FORTUNE - The wind whipped off Bay Fortune on Thursday, unfurling a flag reading "Stop the Experiment" before blowing across the road to the AquaBounty research facility. Beside the flag sat five Islanders who had convened to protest the genetically engineered salmon eggs being produced at the facility.
The salmon, named AquAdvantage, are Atlantic salmon that are bred with genes from a Chinook salmon and an eelpout. The alteration causes the fish to grow at an accelerated rate, reaching market size twice as fast as regular farmed salmon. The salmon have already been approved for human consumption by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This weekend they will begin hearing the concerns of public groups before delivering a final verdict on the fish.
Leo Broderick of the Council of Canadians will be making the trip to Washington for the hearings on Sept. 19 and 20 to voice the concerns of Island groups such as Earth Action, the P.E.I. Health Coalition and the Council of Canadians.
"The mutant fish will escape, as sure as the sun sets every day," Sharon Labchuk of Earth Action P.E.I. said.
"Every day millions of fish escape from pens in the ocean... Just 60 mutant fish in a wild population of 60,000 will render that species extinct."
AquaBounty claims that they will only sell AquAdvantage salmon eggs to FDA approved fish farms that are land-based rather than cage-farmed. All of the fish will be sterile females, with a margin of error between one and five per cent.
If approved, AquAdvantage salmon would be the first transgenic animal to be declared fit for public consumption. According to Mary Boyd of the P.E.I. Health Coalition this would "open the floodgates to some 35 species of GE animals to be placed on the market."
"This is the very first time that GE fish has been analyzed," Boyd continued, "and we wonder what kind of testing did they do? Who did the testing? There are far too many unknowns," she finished, citing studies done by the New England Journal of Medicine that claim the effects of genetically engineered foods on allergies are "uncertain, unpredictable, and untestable."
Noreen Payne, a Fortune resident, read about the press conference in her morning Guardian. She arrived in front of the AquaBounty facility with a homemade Bristol board sign, attached to a thicker piece of cardboard to secure against the wind and rain.
"P.E.I. Home of the Franken Salmon" the sign read. She's watched the impact of genetically modified plants such as round-up ready canola, and she's worried that there's not enough known about the long-term effects of these new technologies.
"I drive past the building everyday and I think, 'You shouldn't be here... You shouldn't be anywhere'" she told The Guardian.
AquaBounty could not be reached for comment.
Ariel Sharratt works in The Guardian's Kings County Bureau