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March 10, 2014. Canadians have confirmation that AquaBounty has asked for approval of its genetically modified (GM) salmon for human consumption in Canada.

“Many years into this controversy, Canadians have our first confirmation that Health Canada is assessing the safety of GM salmon for eating, but from the company rather than our own government,” said Lucy Sharratt of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN). “This would be the first GM food animal in the world, but Health Canada refused to confirm or deny that they were spending taxpayers money evaluating this GM fish.”

The latest financial statement from AquaBounty, released March 6, includes confirmation of what the federal government has refused to reveal to Canadians: “The Company continues to seek Environment Canada’s approval for the sale of AAS [AquAdvantage Salmon] in Canada for human consumption.” [1] [Please note: AquaBounty names Environment Canada however it is Health Canada that will assess the safety of the GM fish for human consumption.]

In November 2013, the Minister of the Environment announced her decision to allow confined production of the GM fish eggs and fish in Canada, but approval by Health Canada for safe human consumption is required before the GM salmon can be sold as food. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is also currently assessing the safety of the GM salmon.

“Like all GM foods, the GM salmon would not be labeled in grocery stores,” said Sharratt, “The GM salmon would be approved in secret and sold in secret.”

In November 2013, CBAN wrote to the Minister of Health, Rona Ambrose, to ask if Health Canada was reviewing the GM salmon for approval. The response, sent from the Director General of the Food Directorate at Health Canada, Samuel B. Godefroy, was that, “the Department is not legally permitted to release information that companies submit and consider confidential, as per 20 (1) of the Access to Information Act. This includes even the mere fact that a submission to the Department has been made.”[2]

Mr. Godefroy further stated that, “The amount of media coverage suggests that Canadians should be well aware of the existence of this product and its potential for introduction to the Canadian market at the conclusion of a safety assessment by Health Canada.”

“We are astonished that Health Canada continues to deny Canadians such basic information and actually suggests media coverage as a replacement for government transparency,” said Sharratt.

A legal challenge to Environment Canada’s decision to allow production of the GM salmon was launched earlier this year by Ecology Action Centre and Living Oceans Society.

AquaBounty’s revelation came just as the two largest grocery chains in the U.S., Kroger and Safeway, committed to not carrying the GM fish, if approved by the U.S. government.


For more information: Lucy Sharratt, Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, 613 809 1103.

Notes to Editors:
[1] AquaBounty Technologies, Inc. Proposed Fundraising and General Meeting, March 6, 2014
[2] Correspondence between Samuel B. Godefroy Director General of the Food Directorate at Health Canada, and Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator, Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, November 27, 2013
The Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN) is a campaign coalition of 17 organizations that works to research, monitor and raises awareness about issues relating to genetic engineering in food and farming. Our members include farmer associations, environmental and social justice organizations, and regional coalitions of grassroots groups.