Photo credit:  Sierra Club


Groups in Canada, US call for Aqua Bounty egg boycott 

Christine Blank

Canadian and U.S. environmental groups are urging the aquaculture and seafood industry to boycott AquaBounty’s Atlantic salmon eggs to eliminate the risk of any accidental mix-ups.

Friend of the Earth U.S., Friends of the Earth Canada, the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN), the Council of Canadians – PEI Chapter, Earth Action PEI, Ecology Action Centre (Nova Scotia), The MacKillop Centre for Social Justice (PEI), and Vigilance OGM all expressed concern that “human error could lead to the inadvertent production of GM (genetically modified) salmon in open net-pens and the resultant environmental risk,” they said in a CBAN press release.

AquaBounty plans to manufacture and sell both GM Atlantic salmon eggs and non-GM eggs at its Rollo Bay facility, the groups said. A 2019 risk assessment from Fisheries and Oceans Canada that recommended producing the GM and non-GM eggs in separate buildings or areas, shipping the GM and non-GM eggs at separate times, and labeling inside and outside shipping boxes.

“We’re surprised that the company now also plans to ship out non-GM salmon eggs from the same facility where it produces GM salmon eggs,” said Mark Butler with the Ecology Action Centre in Nova Scotia. “This adds a new level of risk to the P.E.I. production.”

“Companies buying salmon eggs for fish farming should avoid AquaBounty’s products from Prince Edward Island in order to prevent any mix-up with genetically modified salmon eggs,” said Lucy Sharratt, coordinator of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN).

The worse-case scenario is a mistake where GM fish eggs are unknowingly sent to a company for growing in ocean net-pens, Sharratt said. “Unintended production in ocean farms would significantly increase the risk of GM salmon escaping into the wild, putting wild salmon at risk. Human error is a predictable cause of accidental contamination.”

CBAN’s recent report, “GM Contamination in Canada: The failure of living modified organisms – incidents and impacts,” documents the role of human error in two previous contamination events with experimental GM animals (pigs) in Canada.

“AquaBounty’s P.E.I. facility, the first GM fish factory in the world, is an accident waiting to happen,” said Beatrice Olivastri, CEO of Friends of the Earth Canada. “Wild salmon is already under enormous pressure from development and climate change. It’s only a matter of time before there’s a mishap and GM salmon escape and further stress wild salmon.”

AquaBounty said it has already anticipated the concerns and taken steps to address them.

“AquaBounty had anticipated this concern and taken the initiative to address it well in advance of any egg shipments. In consultation with the Canadian regulatory agencies, AquaBounty will not provide conventional eggs to any party before using a validated assay and standard operating procedures to confirm the eggs are conventional salmon. The public and the salmon farming industry can be assured that we are doing everything to prevent the sort of error identified by these environmental groups.  AquaBounty has developed a robust quality system over the three decades of working with our salmon,”  Dave Conley, spokesperson for AquaBounty, told SeafoodSource.

The environmental groups have long opposed the sale of GM salmon in the U.S. and Canada. In addition, Canada’s major grocery chains, along with numerous restaurants, seafood suppliers and wholesalers, and Canadian farmed salmon producers have said they will not sell AquaBounty’s AquAdvantage salmon.