GM Salmon: Chronological Order of Events

The following is a chronological order of events for those following the GM Salmon issue. This is a “hot” issue like Bill C-474. Your immediate action is called on to keep this fish out of the North American food chain, permanently.

Posted: October 4: Organic Consumer’s Association

The 10 Freakiest Things About Frankenfish

Here’s the Organic Consumers Association’s latest Huffington Post blog on GMO salmon:

10. According to the FDA, Frankenfish Aren’t Animals, They’re “Animal Drugs”

Normally, a veterinary drug would be used for health purposes, but there’s no therapeutic benefit associated with jacking up an Atlantic salmon with the genes of a Chinook salmon and the eel-like ocean pout to make it grow twice as fast.

The biotech industry pushed FDA to treat genetically engineered animals like drugs because they knew the drug evaluation process would keep companies’ “proprietary” information secret, while limiting public participation and downplaying food safety concerns.

9. The GMO Part of the GMO Salmon Isn’t Being Safety Tested

Since 1992, the FDA has operated under the legal fiction created by the Bush-Quayle Administration that there is no risk associated with the human consumption of genetically engineered plants and animals. The FDA explains that DNA is Generally Recognized as Safe, so genetically engineered DNA is safe, too, and it doesn’t have to be safety tested.

8. Frankenfish DNA Could Change the Bacteria of Your Gut

A human study conducted by the UK’s Food Standards Agency found that consuming genetically engineered soy can result in “horizontal gene transfer,” where the bacteria of the gut takes up the soy’s modified DNA. With GMO salmon, the bacteria of our digestive tracks could take up the engineered salmon genes, but the FDA isn’t looking into whether this would happen or how it might effect our health, because…

7. If It Swims Like a Salmon, FDA Says It’s Safe to Eat

Instead of reviewing the safety of consuming genetically engineered salmon DNA, the FDA food safety review is a simple quacks-like-a-duck-style comparison of genetically engineered and normal salmon.

6. FDA Lets the Frankenfish Company Test Its Own Product’s Safety

The FDA’s food safety review of GMO salmon consists of collecting data produced by AquaBounty, the company that wants to sell it. Not surprisingly, that data is seriously flawed with bias and bad science.

5. Frankenfish Is More Carcinogenic

GMO salmon has 40% more IGF1, a hormone linked to prostate, breast and colon cancers in humans.

4. Frankenfish Is Less Nutritious

GMO salmon has the lowest omega-3 to omega-6 ratio of all the salmon in the studies FDA reviewed, greatly reducing the health benefits of associated with eating salmon.

3. Frankenfish Is More Allergenic

GE salmon have mean allergenic potencies that are 20% and 52% higher than normal salmon, increasing the risk of potentially deadly allergic reactions.

2. GMOs Can Mess a Fish Up!

The FDA notes evidence of “increased frequency of skeletal malformations, and increased prevalence of jaw erosions and multi-systemic, focal inflammation” in the tissues of GMO salmon, but dismisses these findings as “within the range observed in rapid growth phenotypes of non-genetically engineered Atlantic salmon.”

Turns out “normal” factory farmed salmon selected for rapid growth and subjected to the physiological stress of intensive production are already afflicted with “screamer disease,” which deforms 80% of Chilean salmon, and “humpback” spinal compression, found in 70% of Norwegian salmon operations.

Thanks, FDA, for letting us know that factory farmed salmon are so messed up! But, that’s no reason to turn them into Frankenfish!

But the freakiest thing about all of this is…

1. The Government Wants More Transgenic Fish and Less Wild Fish

The main justification for GMO salmon is that it could reduce the pressure on wild fish stocks, but consumption isn’t the primary pressure on wild salmon, destruction of their habitat is. The spawning grounds of wild salmon in Bristol Bay, Alaska, are threatened by plans for Pebble Mine, which would be the largest open-pit copper and gold mine in the US. A disaster at Pebble Mine could mean the destruction of a quarter of a billion pounds of salmon, about the same amount of GMO salmon AquaBounty hopes to produce. The EPA could stop Pebble Mine through the Clean Water Act but has failed to act.

October 1, 2010: Biotech Gets Fishy with GE Salmon
Some say genetic engineering was always fishy, but now the fish
themselves are engineered.

For 15 years genetically engineered (GE, also called genetically
modified or GM) canola, corn, and soy ingredients (and recently, some
GE sugar) proliferated in processed foods in North America. ( Now salmon is the next genetically engineered food that threatens to be introduced to market.

AquaBounty, a Massachusetts-based biotechnology company, is asking the
US to approve its genetically engineered Atlantic salmon for human
consumption, and says it will ask for approval soon in Canada as well.
The company claims its “AquAdvantage” salmon grow to market-size twice
as fast as other farmed salmon. That’s because the Atlantic salmon are
engineered with a growth hormone gene from Chinook salmon, and genetic
material from ocean pout (an eel-like creature). The fish produce
growth hormone throughout the year, rather than just for 3 months as
they would normally.

Fish Ahoy!

After ten years of consideration, the US government is about to
approve the GE salmon. Or are they? On August 25, the U.S Food and
Drug Administration (FDA) announced the final stages of its process to
approve the GE salmon. The FDA called on their Veterinary Medicine
Advisory Committee (VMAC) to discuss the science submitted by
AquaBounty, and to hear from public interest groups, in two days of
public meetings in September.

Just two weeks before the meetings, the FDA released two documents
that summarize the data presented by AquaBounty, and the FDA’s
analysis of that science. The FDA’s preliminary conclusion was the GE
salmon is safe to eat and does not pose a risk to the environment.
However, many Committee members at the public meetings voiced serious
concerns about the quality of the data, asking for more and better
studies. The FDA did not ask the VMAC for an overall recommendation
but is now left to consider the fact that questions were raised and
virtually no one answered yes to the question “Do the data and
information demonstrate a reasonable certainty of no harm from
consumption of foods derived from AquAdvantage salmon?”

AquaBounty now says it is preparing to ask for approval in Canada. As
it turns out, the company’s entire plan to introduce GE salmon fillets
into the US relies on producing GE salmon eggs at its facilities on
Prince Edward Island (PEI).

Local Food?

Until now, only the FDA and AquaBounty knew that Canada is actually
the key to AquaBounty’s plan to introduce GE salmon. On September 3,
the FDA released a redacted copy of the environmental assessment
conducted by consultants for AquaBounty, revealing the company was not
actually asking for approval to grow the fish in the US. Instead, they
are planning to produce all the GE salmon eggs on PEI, ship the eggs
to Panama for growing out and processing, and then sell “table-ready”
GE salmon into the US consumer market. AquaBounty is clear its
environmental assessment is limited to specific facilities for the
production of eyed-eggs on PEI and grow-out to market size in Panama.

But while the FDA is busy assessing the PEI-Panama production plan,
AquaBounty is selling a completely different story to the American
public. Even recently, including at the VMAC hearings, AquaBounty’s
CEO Ron Stotish restated the company’s vision for raising fish closer
to mainland consuming populations in the US. FDA official Larissa
Rudenko had to intervene and remind the committee that the application
before them only relates to production in Canada and Panama. Stotish’s
comments give credence to warnings from US groups that the company
does not intend to stick to its original production plan, but will
expand and shift its production of GE fish to other countries and
conditions as soon as it can.

Environment Canada On the Hook

AquaBounty does not yet have permission from Environment Canada to
commercially produce GE fish eggs at its PEI facility although its
entire plan currently rests on this approval. If the FDA allows the GE
salmon it will be doing so based on an assumption by AquaBounty that
the company will get this permission in Canada.

Environment Canada is required to assess any request from AquaBounty within 120 days. The process is fast and involves no public participation or public hearings. In fact, the public would not even know that AquaBounty had requested this permission until Environment Canada published its final decision.

Environment Canada is new to the controversy over genetic engineering,
having been denied the responsibility to regulate genetically
engineered crops. Assessing the environmental risks of releasing GE
plants was instead mandated to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada via
the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, with its dual mandate to promote
trade as well as regulate for food safety. In the case of GE fish, the
Department of Fisheries and Oceans said, for 12 years, that it was
developing specific regulations, but eventually abandoned these
efforts. Regulatory responsibility (for GE fish and other GE animals)
therefore defaulted to Environment Canada under the Canadian
Environmental Protection Act (CEPA), the “safety net” that catches
those products that do not have a regulatory home.

The FDA is regulating GE fish as an “animal drug” and if it approves
the salmon, as VMAC member James D. McKean concluded, “the Prince
Edward Island facility should be viewed as a drug manufacturing
facility.” AquaBounty’s current activities on PEI however have not
triggered an environmental assessment in Canada due to a CEPA
regulatory exemption for research and development.

GE Fish Gone Wild

Conserving wild Atlantic salmon is a serious matter as populations
dropped in Canada from about 18 million in 1975 to only 625,000 in
2008. Commercial fisheries for wild Atlantic salmon were closed in
1985 with only recreational, Labrador resident and First Nations
fisheries remaining. In 2009, all populations of wild Atlantic salmon
were listed in Canada as a “High Priority Candidate” in danger of
disappearing, with Lake Ontario populations listed as “Extirpated” and
Inner Bay of Fundy populations as “Endangered”. The escape of GE
Atlantic salmon from fish farms on the East Coast could therefore be a
disaster for the species.

Atlantic salmon are also intensively farmed in net-pens in the Pacific
Ocean, primarily in Chile and along the West Coast of Canada and the
US, and the escape of Atlantic salmon from either pens or hatcheries
is a serious problem resulting in reoccurring environmental pollution
that can threaten native species. For example, mature escaped Atlantic
salmon have been recorded in freshwater streams in British Columbia
and there is evidence of successful spawning in a few locations. To
try and avoid the question of escape risk for their GE fish,
AquaBounty is seeking permission to grow-out the fish in a land-based
facility in a “remote highland area” of Panama. The company says the
facility is accessible only by a securely gated footbridge, has an
entrance with locked gates, and is “protected by dogs.”

The other primary containment strategy being relied on is the
company’s plan to only produce female fish that are triploid, meaning
they will not be able to reproduce. AquaBounty concedes that up to 5%
of the salmon could still be fertile at any given time but concludes
that, “the production, grow-out, and disposal of AquAdvantage Salmon
under the conditions described in this Environmental Assessment are
highly unlikely to cause any significant effects on the environment”.
This includes their plan for shipping the GE fish eggs from PEI to
Panama using a “rugged” Styrofoam egg crate packed in a hard-plastic
“Igloo” cooler bound with packing straps and further secured in a
heavy-cardboard shipping container.

The FDA has announced that it will conduct a new environmental
assessment that will include a 30-day pubic comment period.
Ultimately, the FDA may conclude that the environmental risks are
insignificant for the purposes of approval, but given the numerous and
very serious critiques of AquaBounty’s science on health questions,
the FDA will not easily get away with approving the GE salmon for
human consumption.

Risky Fish Fingers

Ten years may seem like a long time to study a product and review its
safety, but that is only if those ten years were well spent. Dr.
Michael Hansen, Senior Scientist at Consumers Union in the US,
testified before the Veterinary Medicine Advisory Committee on
September 20, saying, “The data are too superficial and of
insufficient scientific quality to warrant approval.” Having examined
the summary of AquaBounty’s science, he says, “The FDA is relying on
woefully inadequate data. There is sloppy science, small sample sizes,
and questionable practices.”

Critics have long warned that the process of genetic engineering
itself could result in the increased allergenicity of foods and
AquaBounty’s own data appear to confirm this potential. More data are
clearly needed. Data from testing two small samples show that there
could be a risk of increased allergy potential. The problem of small
sample sizes and questionable design characterizes AquaBounty’s study
on this health question. As VMAC member Robert H. Poppenga of the
Animal Health and Food Safety Lab at the School of Veterinary
Medicine, University of California, told the FDA meeting, “I can’t
interpret the allergenicity data that’s there.” The company maintains
however that its GE fish are “substantially equivalent to farmed

Among other specific problems, the two studies to look at potential
risks from elevated growth hormone levels were deficient. The first of
these examined fish that weighed just 2 ounces, instead of market-
sized fish. The second study used market-sized fish, but the
sensitivity test method was so high that it did not detect growth
hormone in any of the GE or non-GE sample fish. The company similarly
used insensitive tests to look for levels of IGF-1, a hormone linked
to a number of cancers. This means that the FDA currently has no real
data to make conclusions on these safety questions.

The aquaculture industry in Canada and internationally says there is
no market demand for the GE salmon and, as Ruth Salmon, Executive
Director of the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance told CBC, “The
Canadian aquaculture industry does not support the commercial
production of transgenic fish for human consumption.? The aquaculture
industry is right to be afraid of the GE fish. Not only is approval of
GE salmon likely to scare consumers off farmed salmon, but the media
attention may also highlight the existing criticisms of factory fish
farming. Through this debate, for example, consumers may discover that
farmed salmon are nutritionally inferior to wild Atlantic salmon,
being substantially lower in beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. According
to AquaBounty’s data the GE salmon have an even lower ratio of omega-3
to omega-6 fatty acids than other farmed salmon.

Fishy Canadian Research

Just like the GE “Enviropig” that came from the University of Guelph, this GE salmon is the product of publicly funded university research in Canada.

Dr. Garth Fletcher from Memorial University of Newfoundland
(MUN) and Dr. Choy Hew of the University of Toronto patented their
gene construct for transgenic fish in 2001. As recently as January
2010, the federal government granted public funds to AquaBounty for
research that can be applied to their GE salmon. The company was given
$2.9 million from the Atlantic Innovation Fund to “improve the culture
of reproductively sterile Atlantic salmon” with the objective of “the
safe commercial launch of triploid salmon with Atlantic Canada
identified as the source for associated commercial benefits, and
worldwide distribution of the product.”

The Future is Now or Never

AquaBounty’s transgenic salmon is in competition with the University
of Guelph’s “Enviropig” to become the first GE animal introduced into
our food system. “As the FDA considers its first genetically
engineered food animal, we’re hopeful that this process will pave the
way for future technologies currently in the pipeline,” said Jim
Greenwood, President and CEO of the Biotechnology Industry
Organization in a September 20 press release, “Other new technologies
in development include GE cattle, goats, pigs and fish that can
advance human health, mitigate environmental impact, optimize animal
welfare, improve state-of-the-art industrial products and provide
sustainable food sources in agriculture and aquaculture” Greenwood

AquaBounty’s controversial fish and the FDA’s release of its shoddy
data have, however, made the biotech industry more vulnerable than
ever. Mark Walton, President of Viagen, “The Cloning Company” and
Chair of the Biotechnology Industry Organization’s Animal Policy
Committee, told the recent Agricultural Biotechnology Industry
Conference in Saskatoon that FDA staff themselves were concerned that
AquaBounty would not have enough allies in the room at the September
FDA hearings. They were right.

An abbreviated version of this article was published in Common Ground
Magazine, October 2010. Lucy Sharratt is the coordinator of the
Canadian Biotechnology Action Network.

Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator
Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN)

Collaborative Campaigning for Food Sovereignty and Environmental Justice
431 Gilmour Street, Second Floor
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, K2P 0R5
Phone: 613 241 2267 ext.6
Fax: 613 241 2506

– – – –

From Julie Emerson, GE Free BC:

You’ve probably heard about the first genetically modified animal: SALMON, and it’s heading for approval. Here’s the important info from GE Free BC, and our campaign to stop it. It’s crucial to stop GM salmon; the Enviropig, the second GM animal, is on the way. This October 10th, 10/10/10, is Non-GMO Day across North America, and you can make a difference. If you like salmon as much as we do, you’ll want to keep GM salmon out of our fish markets & stores & restaurants. Keep reading. What You Can Do Now is below this info.

What is GM Salmon?

GM salmon is Atlantic salmon genetically engineered with growth hormone from 2 other fish so that it grows twice as fast.

When and where does GM salmon originate?

The U.S. company AquaBounty wants to produce GM salmon eggs on PEI (where the process was researched and patented), transport them to Panama to grow, then sell them in the U.S. Aquabounty presented its own safety data to the U.S. Food and Drug administation this September. The FDA stated it was safe to eat, but did not approve it before more information about the risks. Aquabounty will approach Health Canada for approval next.

GM salmon contamination risks

Aquabounty says it will produce sterile female salmon eggs (and they require some fertile males and females). Sterilization is never 100% effective. Even a few escaped fertile GM salmon can lead to the extinction of a wild salmon population. Aquabounty says it will contain the GM salmon. Natural disasters like recent flooding in PEI and Panama and the recurring escapes of hatchery fish show that containment does not always work. Aquabounty says its secure transport of the eggs to Panama will be via Stryofoam coolers with a label saying not to use them in other inland or open-ocean operations.

Health risks

– GM food creates new allergy risks (e.g. 50% increase in soy allergies in England after the introduction of GM soy)

– GM food has antibiotic-resistant markers (e.g.ampicillin) that increase antibiotic-resistant bugs that infect humans. Transfer of antibiotic resistance from GM food to bacteria in the human gut is highly probable. Farmed salmon are given more antibiotics than any other livestock.

– GM food, including GM salmon, has never had any human health risk studies.  At the FDA hearing, Aquabounty provided 2 inadequate studies on the growth hormone to support the safety of GM salmon, – termed “sloppy science”.

Who wants GM Salmon?

Not consumers! If GM labels aren’t mandatory, we may eat GM salmon without knowing it. The aquaculture industry itself says there’s no consumer demand for GM salmon. The economy? Aquabounty lost more than $5 million a year for the last 4 years, but received a $2.9 million grant in PEI from the Canadian Atlantic Innovation Fund.

What You Can Do Now

Go out and ask. You approach one local restaurant or retailer – fish market or supermarket – to talk about GM salmon.Tell them you won’t buy it. Tell them about non-GMO day, 10/10/10, the launch day to spread the word. Before you go, download the CBAN flyer from the website,

Print a bunch, and ask that local business to put them on the counter, to give away to customers.

DONATE! CBAN is coordinating the No GM Salmon campaign and many efforts against GM Food across Canada (with one staff member). CBAN calls upon Health Canada and Environment Canada to reject applications to approve GM fish production. Get organizations of all kinds to sign on to this statement, and get updates on the campaign at DONATE directly to CBAN, online or mail, and receive a charitable donation tax receipt!

Tell GE Free BC about your activism. If you’ve found a supportive business, email us at Tell us the name, business, and address, and we’ll also contact the business about donation options.

Thank you for taking action!

– – – –

Sept. 28, 2010: Sign your organization’s objection to GE fish

We invite environmental, conservation, health, consumer, and public
interest groups, industry associations, and aboriginal peoples’
organizations in Canada to sign the following statement of opposition
to genetically engineered (GE, also called genetically modified or GM)

No GE Fish Research, Production, Consumption in, and Export from Canada

A genetically engineered salmon may soon be approved for human
consumption in the U.S.. This would be the first GE food animal
approved anywhere in the world. The company AquaBounty says it is now
also preparing ask for approval in Canada. AquaBounty also recently
revealed that they plan to produce all of their GE Atlantic salmon
eggs at their facility in Prince Edward Island.

– Consumers do not want to eat GE fish. The aquaculture industry
itself recognizes that there is no consumer demand for GE fish.
– There are serious questions about the safety of eating GE fish and
the ability of our governments to assess this safety.
– Fish escapes are a serious threat to wild fish populations, a risk
that cannot be eliminated. No containment measures are failsafe.

To protect the health and future of our food system and our aquatic ecosystems, we, the undersigned:

1. State our categorical objection to the introduction of genetically
engineered (GE) fish into our food system;

2. Object to the raising of GE fish, whether in open netpens or land-
based facilities, object to the production of GE fish eggs in Canada
and their export from Canada to other countries, and object to the use
of public resources for the research and development of GE fish;

3. We call upon Environment Canada to reject any request for
permission to commercially produce genetically engineered fish or fish

4. We call upon Health Canada to reject any application for approval
of genetically engineered fish for human consumption;

5. We call upon the Federal government to stop any current safety
assessments of GE fish until the completion of a full, transparent,
open and accessible public consultation on the social, ecological,
human health, and market implications of introducing GE fish has been
completed and its findings have been debated in Parliament.

Sign on Deadline: October 15, 2010 and ongoing.

To sign on visit

For more information and action see or contact
Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator, Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, 613
241 2267 ext.

Donate today to support the campaign: Thank you!

2 responses to “GM Salmon: Chronological Order of Events

  1. Pingback: GM Salmon: Chronological Order of Events | GE Free BC | Genetic Engineering Digest

  2. This new fish is extremely questionable in terms of its ecological and genetic implications. Thanks for this. Can I share an article about a new development in prostate cancer treatment. May be of interest.

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