5/23/16  From Seafood.com by John Sackton —             
The market for salmon in Canada is about to get much more complicated. Yesterday Health Canada announced approval of Aquabounty’s GMO salmon as the first genetically modified animal allowed for sale as a food product in Canada.                   GMO salmon cartoon
Aquabounty’s CEO Ron Stotish said that it would take about a year to bring product to market.
Health Canada said they would not require any labeling on GMO salmon.
Ruth Salmon, the executive director of the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance, said because labelling is not required, consumers who oppose the genetically modified fish won’t know what they are buying.
“It’s a concern about confusing the consumer, for sure, because I think labelling allows that kind of clarity. So we’ll look at other ways of trying to create that consumer information because that’s important to us. ”
The fundamental argument over genetically modified salmon is two-fold. First, the agencies, both Health Canada, and the FDA in the US, have a very narrow mandate to look only at health consequences that determine whether or not a food is safe.
Since GMO salmon and traditional farm-raised Atlantic salmon have no nutritional of chemical differences, there is no argument over whether GMO salmon is safe to eat.
But many things are safe that consumers choose not to eat.
Salmon farmers and environmental groups argue that without labeling, some consumers are likely to reject the entire farmed salmon category, as they will have no assurances that the salmon they are buying is not GMO salmon.
As part of an anti-GMO campaign by Greenpeace and others, many supermarkets, including some in Canada, have pledged not to sell GMO salmon. Whether this will be enough to convince consumers is not clear.
Stotish has said at times he would accept labeling if needed, but he does not think it necessary.
Those who might invest in producing GMO salmon may want to look at the history of other GMO crops once consumers preferences are involved. For example, most beet sugar in the US is produced from GMO crops. But in response to consumer concerns, candy companies who are among the largest users of sugar have pledged to have non-GMO products. The result has been a massive switch to cane sugar, which is non-GMO, even at a higher price.
The beef farmers in Minnesota who initially embraced GMO crops are now seeing their prices fall, and their customers disappear. Some are ready to go back to traditional crops.  In short, GMO was a money-losing proposition for them.
The second problem with GMO salmon is Stotish’s argument they can bring salmon to consumers to enjoy “in an environmentally responsible manner without damaging and exploiting the oceans, with the assurance it is as safe and healthy as the Atlantic salmon they are eating now. “
The idea that farmed salmon is damaging and exploiting the oceans makes about as much as sense as saying wheat farming damages and destroys the prairies. All food production, whether on land or sea, involves changes to the ecosystem. Salmon has far less of an impact on natural ecosystems than beef or pork production, for example.
Aquabounty salmon will still use the same feed as other farmed salmon. The only environmental difference is that Aquabounty is required to use a closed containment system. Net Pen Aquaculture is not “damaging and exploiting” the oceans if done with proper oversight and responsible regulation.
Stotish, Chief Executive Officer of AquaBounty, commented after the approval that “We are pleased to receive the approvals of the various authorities of Canada which means we can produce, sell and eat our AquAdvantage Salmon in Canada. We thank the scientists in the Ministries of Health, Food Inspection and Fisheries of the Canadian Government for carrying out their assessments diligently and confirming the safety of our salmon for both the consumer and the environment.
“Alongside the approval by the U. S. Food and Drug Administration in November 2015, there are now two independent reviews by two of the most sophisticated and demanding regulators in the world and both have come to the same conclusion. We look forward to bringing our nutritious salmon to consumers to enjoy in an environmentally responsible manner without damaging and exploiting the oceans, with the assurance it is as safe and healthy as the Atlantic salmon they are eating now. ”
Health Canada made their decision on a narrow basis assessing food safety.
The safety assessment considered:
-how AAS (AquAdvantage Salmon) was developed;
-how the composition and nutritional quality of AAS compare to non-modified salmon;
-what the potential is for AAS to be toxic or cause allergic reactions;
-the health status of AAS.
The Health Canada review concluded that AAS does not raise concerns related to food safety. The Department also noted its opinion that fillets derived from AAS are as safe and nutritious as fillets from currently available farmed Atlantic salmon.
Canadian Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay emphatically said he would eat GMO salmon and that it was safe. “Science has indicated it’s safe. I’ve eaten all kinds of cereals and stuff and I think I’m doing quite well. ”
Again, his focus was on safety, not on wider environmental or ecological concerns, nor on consumer choice.
Farmed salmon has been a great success story, in taking what was once a luxury food and expanding its marketing and consumption into a worldwide seafood staple.
In doing this, salmon has retained a good reputation. GMO salmon, in exchange for a small reduction in cost due to less feeding time and faster growth, threatens the seafood reputation of salmon farmers, supermarkets, and wild salmon producers who are tarred by mistake.
Although the safety arguments are valid, it seems that without truth in labeling, the introduction of this presumably lower-priced salmon may harm overall consumption more than it might increase it.
In the US, the political opposition from the wild salmon industry is likely going to be sufficient to require some type of label, or to introduce a de facto voluntary label that will quickly become mandatory due to requirements of buyers.
As a result, it is unlikely that the approval of Aquabounty’s salmon in the US would have a major market impact. It is not clear if that is the case in Canada.

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