Tuesday, October 23, 2018. Charlottetown, P.E.I., Canada – The Government of Prince Edward Island (P.E.I) has provided a new $2 million loan to the company AquaBounty, to help it finish construction of the world’s first genetically modified (GM or genetically engineered) fish factory.
“We’re incredulous that our government is loaning even more money to help this company produce such a controversial product,” said Sharon Labchuk of Earth Action PEI. “AquaBounty is struggling financially and the province is throwing good money after bad.”
The loan will help the company finish construction of its GM fish production facility at Rollo Bay, P.E.I. The company says it will start producing 250 tonnes of GM Atlantic salmon there in 2019. This follows a 2016 provincial government loan of $717,093.
“The government is helping get this Frankenfish factory up and running, even though there’s been local protest for two decades,” said Leo Broderick of The Council of Canadians in PEI. “How much unlabelled GM salmon do Canadians have to eat for the company to pay back these government loans?”
“The only reason AquaBounty can sell its GM salmon in Canada right now is because no one knows where it is,” said Broderick. There is no mandatory labelling of GM food in Canada.
The announcement of the loan comes just days after the major Quebec sushi chain Aki Sushi announced that it refuses to use the GM salmon.(1)
The federal government has also granted and loaned at least $8.2 million to support development of the GM salmon, including via an agreement with AquaBounty that stipulates 10% royalties to the government from sales of a related product. The government will not disclose what product is subject to royalty payments.(2)
“Investing in this Frankenfish factory is backwards and risky,” said Mary Boyd, of the MacKillop Centre for Social Justice in Charlottetown, “It’s an appalling use of taxpayers’ money. Few taxpayers would even eat the GM salmon, if they had the choice.”
The company does not yet have federal government approval to produce GM salmon at the Rollo Bay site, however an Environment Canada assessment appears be underway.(3)
The groups are asking the Premier of P.E.I. to provide a rationale for this loan and a full accounting of all government loans and other funding supports to AquaBounty.
For more information: Leo Broderick, Council of Canadians, 902-316-2921; Mary Boyd, MacKillop Centre for Social Justice, 902-892-9074; Sharon Labchuk, Earth Action PEI, 902- 626-7327.
(1) Press Release (in French), Les entreprises le rejettent, Vigilance OGM. October 12, 2018. https://www.vigilanceogm.org/articles/entreprises-rejettent-le-saumon-ogm
(2) Correspondence between the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, 2018. Available upon request. Contact: Lucy Sharratt, 902-852-5555, firstname.lastname@example.org
(3) Environment and Climate Change Canada, Voluntary Public Engagement Initiative, Active engagement initiative: New Notification related to AquAdvantage® salmon https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/managing-pollution/evaluating-new-substances/voluntary-public-engagement-initiative.html