Environmental, social and health advocates call on Premier Robert Ghiz to join fight against genetically engineered fish produced on the Island.
This undated handout photo provided by AquaBounty shows two same-age salmon, a genetically engineered salmon, rear, and a non-genetically modified salmon, foreground. (AP Photo/AquaBounty Technologies)
A group of environmental, social and health advocates is calling on Premier Robert Ghiz to put a stop to the genetically engineered salmon currently being produced in Prince Edward Island.
Leo Broderick of the Council of Canadians, who has taken his fight over this to Washington, says the Prince Edward Island government should have a say on what is happening within its own boundaries.
“People all over the world are very concerned that Prince Edward Island will become the sole producer of the first genetically engineered (GE) animals, if in fact the United States does license it for the dinner plate,” Broderick said following his 45-minute meeting with the premier on Thursday.
“It’s a black eye for the province. We do not need this distinction or designation as the home of the Frankensalmon.”
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the U.S. held two days of hearings last September in Washington to see whether AquaBounty’s salmon could be marketed as safe for Americans to eat.
The FDA has already said the salmon, which grows twice as fast as conventional ones, is as safe to eat as the traditional variety.
Genetic engineering is already widely used for crops, but the U.S. government has not considered up until now allowing the consumption of modified animals.
AquaBounty, which produces the fish at a facility in eastern P.E.I., maintains its fish is safe and environmentally sustainable.
But Sharon Labchuk of Earth Action, a P.E.I.-based environmental group, doesn’t believe the fish is safe.
However, Labchuk said she was not able to convince the premier.
“One of the sticking points is that (Ghiz) doesn’t believe that GMO foods or animals are a problem,” said Labchuck.
“He has no problem with eating them himself … Now that he’s a father, I don’t think his daughter should be eating (GMO foods or animals) either.
“I don’t think anybody should be eating these foods because they have not been proven safe.”
The group had four requests for the P.E.I. premier.
It wants Environment Canada to do a better job on informing residents on what AquaBounty is doing in Prince Edward Island. It wants public consultations. It is calling for a ban on the sale of GE animals in the province and it wants the Prince Edward Island government to pass legislation declaring the Island as genetically modified or genetically engineered free.
“It’s a black eye for the province. We do not need this distinction or designation as the home of the Frankensalmon,” Leo Broderick of the Council of Canadians
Ghiz said much of the debate over the GE salmon is happening outside of P.E.I.’s borders.
“As we know, they’re down in the U.S. looking to the FDA (for approval), I have no control over the FDA, they are also looking to Health Canada, I have no control over Health Canada,” Ghiz told The Guardian.
“But I committed today to ask Health Canada some questions with regards to where they are in the approval process.”
The Island premier said he would not support plans for a genetically modified free province.
Ghiz said he doesn’t know enough about the issue to form a personal opinion on whether genetically engineered food is safe.
“I trust the processes that are out there. That’s why we have Health Canada. That’s why we have the FDA.”
The U.S. government is also trying to determine whether GE fish should be labeled.
Current FDA rules only require modified foods to be labeled if they are substantially different than the conventional product, and since the agency has said the GE salmon is essentially the same as the Atlantic salmon, that may mean the modified salmon may not be labeled.
That worries Mary Boyd of the P.E.I. Health Coalition.
“There is no way of telling what the impact of all of this will be on the health of consumers,” she said.
Just the Facts
In the case of the genetically engineered salmon being produced in P.E.I., AquaBounty has added a growth hormone from a Chinook salmon that allows the fish to produce their growth hormone all year long.
The engineers were able to keep the hormone active by using another gene from an eel-like fish called an ocean pout that acts like an on switch for the hormone, according to the company. Conventional salmon only produce the growth hormone some of the time.
SOURCE: The Associated Press