AquaBounty facing environmental complaint in Panama

U.S. company produces genetically modified salmon eggs on P.E.I.

Published on November 23, 2013

A U.S. company with a Prince Edward Island research facility is facing a complaint in Panama alleging that it is in breach of the country’s environmental regulations.

The Environmental Advocacy Center of Panama submitted a complaint to the country’s National Environmental Authority earlier this week alleging that AquaBounty’s research and development of Genetically Modified  (GM) Atlantic salmon is in breach of environmental regulations.

The company produces salmon eggs in P.E.I., which are then shipped to Panama for further research and development.

Sharon Labchuk, of the P.E.I. group “Islanders Say No to Frankenfish”, said she was surprised at the complaint.

“We always assume that because something is as controversial as this is, the proper controls are in place,” said Labchuk. “It’s also very experimental and the risks of anything going wrong are disastrous. They can wipe out the wild salmon population if these fish ever escape and their eggs end up in the wild rivers.”

The National Environmental Authority in Panama conducted an inspection of the AquaBounty operation in 2012 and allegedly found violations that remained uncorrected by the company. Those included failures to submit monitoring reports every three months and a failure to obtain permits for wastewater discharge.

Labchuk said she has contacted the P.E.I. environment department and asked for a list of provincial requirements AquaBounty must comply with.

“And to let me know if they are in compliance with everything here,” said Labchuk. “They (the department) said they would do that.”

AquaBounty has asked for approval of the GM Atlantic salmon for human consumption in the U.S.

If approved, the fish would be the first GM food animal in the world.

Lucy Sharratt, of the Canadian Biotechnoloy Action Network, said the federal government should take note of the Panama complaint and consider the impact of an environmental escape.

“All the GM fish eggs come from P.E.I. and Canada needs to take responsibility for creating an international environmental risk,” said Sharratt.

The network has sent a letter to environment minister Leona Aglukkaq asking for an explanation of how Environment Canada will assess the risks of the GM fish.