Leo Broderick: Council lists GM salmon concerns

Published on July 17, 2017

The GM salmon produced by AquaBounty grows at a much accelerated rate than smaller, fish farm or wild salmon.

©File Photo

Many on this Island having been working for years to prevent P.E.I. from becoming the ‘home of the world’s first frankenfish.’

The Council of Canadians P.E.I. Chapter submitted the following to the provincial government regarding the request of AquaBounty to grow and market GM salmon on P.E.I. Sadly, none of our concerns were addressed by the province.

“We have reviewed the Amended Environmental Impact Statement for AquaBounty Canada Inc. We say that this proposal is more than an amended version; we view it as an entirely new project as the purpose of the facility has changed significantly. AquaBounty is proposing the facility at Rollo Bay West now be used to rear AquAdvantage salmon, a genetically modified salmon, from eyed egg to market size within the facility.

In our submission on AquaBounty’s first proposal we urged caution saying, “If approval is given to this facility we believe this creates an opportunity for AquaBounty to turn it into a GM production facility sometime in the future.” We were right.

Our concerns are as follows:

1. In the report it says, AquaBounty will only produce sterile females at the Rollo Bay West factory. However, the plan AquaBounty submitted to FDA (USA) can only guarantee sterility for 95 per cent of the eggs at a commercial scale. Moreover, AquaBounty will need to keep stocks of fertile fish to produce new offspring. The risk of this GM salmon to wild Atlantic salmon populations and other fish species is there, even in a land-based facility especially so close to a stream and the Northumberland Strait.

2. Climate change and warmer oceans may also give GM salmon an advantage over wild populations. Research has found that GM salmon are better able to survive in warmer waters and to adapt to shifting environmental conditions than wild salmon.

3. Farmed salmon typically need to consume three pounds of food in order to gain a single pound, making them a highly inefficient way to produce protein for the world. According to company data, the AquAdvantage salmon may consume up to five times more food than its non-GM counterpart due to the GM salmon’s need to produce growth hormone year round.

4. We are very concerned about the use of groundwater. In the new project we are told that each of the Rollo Bay West facilities will operate as a 99.7 per cent Recirculating Aquaculture System) using a small amount of make-up water provided from one of four engineered PW’s wells on the property. This is a much better situation. But based on our experience with Aqua Bounty at Bay Fortune, it’s handling of wastewater is a problem.

5. Data on human health impacts of GM are not many, but some studies provide cause for serious concern. For example, the routine use of antibiotics to control diseases often found in farm-raised fish may already be impacting human health. If AquaBounty is correct in claiming its GM salmon are less fit than wild salmon, they could in turn be susceptible to more diseases than fish currently grown in aquaculture facilities. The amount of antibiotics given to GM salmon may be higher than the amount given to non-GM fish.

6. We also point out that AquaBounty has a disastrous environmental record. AquaBounty had had a disease outbreak, an accident that led to lost salmon, and was fined US$ 9,500 when Panamanian regulators found AquaBounty in breach of environmental laws.”

The Council of Canadians P.E.I. Chapter is asking that the P.E.I. Environment Department reject the amended application from AquaBounty. Given the significant change in the new plans for the facility, a new and complete environmental assessment must be undertaken by the province and that there be public consultations on this matter across the province. And we will continue to work with others to have this project stopped.


Leo Broderick is vice president, Council of Canadians,