Canada Becomes First Country to (Unwittingly) Consume GMO Salmon

Canada Becomes First Country to (Unwittingly) Consume GMO Salmon
iStock/eriktrampe

Canadians have already consumed nearly five tons of GMO salmon, according to a report released last Friday by AquaBounty, the maker of AquAdvantage salmon. Canadian supermarkets have been stocking the fish since April, constituting “the very first sales of AquAdvantage salmon,” according to AquaBounty CEO Ronald Stotish, but consumers have not been kept abreast of where and when the fish is being sold.

“Canadian consumers are becoming, unwittingly, the first guinea pigs,” Thibault Rehn of the group Vigilance OGM told The Guardian.

Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency first approved the salmon in May 2016 and decided that, given the fact that it was as nutritious as traditional salmon, the decision to label would fall to distributors.

“The company did not disclose where the GM salmon fillets were sold or for what purpose, and we’re shocked to discover that they’ve entered the market at this time,” Lucy Sharratt of Canadian Biotechnology Action Network said in a news release.

Two Canadian supermarket chains – IGA Quebec and Costco – have said that they will refuse to stock the GMO salmon.

Last month, AquaBounty purchased a fish farming facility in Indiana and plans to begin U.S. sales of the GMO salmon in 2019. The FDA approved the salmon for sale in November 2015 before issuing a ban on the import and sale of the fish two months later, pending the establishment of clear labeling guidelines in accordance with the GMO labeling law passed last summer.

Because the salmon AquaBounty produces are all female and their chromosomes have been modified to make them sterile, AquaBounty claims that these salmon cannot breed or contaminate the wild salmon population, though the Washington Post alleges that “this process is not 100 percent successful.”

AquAdvantage salmon is an Atlantic salmon genetically engineered to contain a growth hormone-regulating gene from a Pacific Chinook salmon and a promoter from an ocean pout. This makes the fish grow year-round instead of only during spring and summer, resulting in a growth rate four to six times that of other Atlantic salmon. According to a recent study, this means that the salmon consume 25 percent less feed in their lifetimes.

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Emily Monaco
Emily Monaco

Emily Monaco is an American food and culture writer based in Paris. She loves uncovering the stories behind ingredients and exposing the face of our food system, so that consumers can make educated choices. Her work has been published in the Wall Street Journal, Vice Munchies, and Serious Eats.