Less than a year ago, AquaBounty assured the PEI government there would be no genetically-engineered salmon on PEI. The plan was to ship eggs to Panama and raise GE salmon there. Now AquaBounty wants to build the world’s first GM fish factory on PEI. Why? What’s changed? Panama must have given AquaBounty some initial assurance it would be allowed to raise GM salmon, otherwise the company wouldn’t have said as much in its applications to the FDA and Health Canada seeking regulatory approval. Has Panama denied AquaBounty’s bid to raise GE salmon, and the company just hasn’t told anyone yet?
In 2014, Panama fined AquaBounty for breaking numerous environmental laws. An investigation was instigated by the Centro de Incidencia Ambiental de Panama (CIAM), and supporting documentation from International environmental organizations summarized the situation as follows: “AquaBounty is currently seeking approval of its GE salmon with U.S. regulators at the Food and Drug Administration based on a specific plan whereby all GE salmon eggs would be produced in Prince Edward Island, Canada and shipped to Panama for grow-out and processing. Given that this production plan depends on each facility operating in a safe and responsible manner, with appropriate regulatory oversight from government authorities, the allegations of non-compliance in Panama raise serious concerns for the international community.”
That same letter also noted: “In August 2008, a severe storm caused a tree to fall on part of AquaBounty’s production facility in Panama, leading to a batch of experimental GE salmon being ‘lost.’ The company claims that all the GE fish died, but the public has never received confirmation of this from regulators in Panama.” The investigation found AquaBounty “repeatedly violated” numerous regulations, failed to secure necessary permits, and polluted the local environment.
Laura Braden’s recent Guardian article “Sustainable way to raise fish,” contained many unsubstantiated claims I unfortunately can’t address here. However, because I’m convinced that PEI’s future economic and social well-being will not come from global corporations based elsewhere, Braden’s claims that AquaBounty is a “small company” and a “Canadian innovation success story” must be challenged.
AquaBounty’s parent company is Intrexon, controlled by American bio-tech billionaire Randal J. Kirk (Forbes puts his worth at $4.1 billion). Intrexon is the majority owner of AquaBounty, and Kirk personally owns 60% of Intrexon. Intrexon holds patents on GE mice, rats, monkeys chimpanzees, cattle, goats, pigs and sheep; owns numerous companies cloning livestock (and pets); recently purchased UK-based Oxitec (which produces genetically-engineered insects) and Okanagan Specialty Fruits (which developed the GE “Arctic” apple).
Neither the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Association nor the International Salmon Farmer’s Association support the commercial production of GM fish. So why would the PEI government even consider siding with a corporate billionaire attempting to create and control a global market for genetically-modified animals? Isn’t supporting these two highly-reputable, member-based aquaculture organizations a no-brainer? Neither consumers nor food retailers want GE fish, especially because labels won’t say “genetically-engineered.”
AquaBounty wants to raise GE salmon on PEI clearly because Canada is currently the ONLY country in the world allowing the commercial production of GE animals for human consumption: we’re their last hope. Helping Kirk build a global GE empire would be a catastrophic blunder and betrayal: the MacLachlan government must say “no” to a GE Salmon factory in PEI!