The world’s first genetically modified (GM or genetically engineered) food animal was sold in 2017, in Canada: the GM Atlantic salmon.
The House of Commons Agriculture Committee conducted a study on “Genetically modified animals for human consumption” in late 2016. The Committee report made four recommendations:
- that the government provide greater transparency in the regulatory system that evaluates genetically modified animals intended for human consumption.
- that the government provide support for independent research into the health, environmental and other effects of new genetic modification technologies (including those to produce genetically modified animals).
- that the government support the mandatory labelling system only for issues of food health and safety.
- that the government work with industry to establish tools to provide traceability for genetically modified animals.
On October 4, 2016, CBAN testified at the House of Commons Agriculture Committee hearings on GM animals. All of the testimony can be read or listened to here.
Here is a summary of CBAN’s main recommendations to the Committee:
- There needs to be an assessment of economic impact before any GM product is approved for release
- There is a need to strengthen environmental risk assessment including a need to assess the long-term, system-wide risks of each GM product and the use of this technology as a whole
- Canada need systems for tracking and tracing all GM organisms
- Canadians need transparency in regulation
- Canadian consumers need mandatory labelling of all GM foods in the grocery store
We need to step back and ask:
- Is genetically engineering animals ethical?
- Is it acceptable to Canadians?
- Is it necessary?
There needs to be a moratorium on the introduction of GM animals until Canadians have a chance to be heard, and until changes are made to increase the government’s ability to regulate GM organisms and foods, including tracking and traceability, and transparency including mandatory GM food labelling.
Canada has two decades of experience with GM crops and foods that has not yet been evaluated. We need to step back so that we can also evaluate the impacts of GM crops. We need to do this and then learn and apply any lessons from the release of GM crops and foods before we consider allowing GM animals into our environment and food system.
In 2017, 4.5 metric tonnes of unlabelled GM Atlantic salmon, produced in Panama, were sold into the Canadian market. It is approved for eating and for growing (on land) at one facility Canada and it is also approved for eating in the US. It is currently only being produced in Panama and only sold in Canada. The company claims that the salmon grows faster – it is genetically engineered with a growth hormone gene from Chinook salmon and genetic material from ocean pout (an eel-like creature).