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These two salmon are the same age, but one is genetically-engineered to grow twice as fast. (AquaBounty)

An international delegation against genetically-modified salmon is holding public meetings across the Atlantic provinces to raise awareness of what its members call "Frankenfish."

The group, which includes people from Prince Edward Island, Ottawa and Washington, stopped in Fredericton on Tuesday to campaign against about what could soon become the first world's first genetically-modified animal approved as a food product.

They say the fish, which contain genes from two other fish species to double its growth rate, could pose health and environmental hazards.

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Eric Hoffman, of the Friends of the Earth, says there are too many secrets about the fish. ((CBC))

"The company has been pretty secret and the government has been pretty secret about what data they have and what they don't," said delegate member Eric Hoffman, of the Friends of the Earth in Washington.

"And people don't trust the fish and they don't want it on their plates," he said.

FDA reviewing environmental risks

AquaBounty Technologies, an American company, has a plan to produce eggs for its so-called "AquaAdvantage" salmon in Bay Fortune, P.E.I., and a land-based aquaculture site in Panama.

The company has asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to approve the Atlantic salmon for commercial sale as food.

'We have shot animals up with growth hormone, we have fed hormones to animals to get them to grow faster. This is the first time we've built it into the animal.'—Jaydee Hanson, Center for Food Safety

The FDA is currently reviewing the environmental risks of the eggs being raised at the P.E.I. facility, then being sent to a Panama facility to be grown to adult size, and finally shipped, table-ready for retail sale in the U.S.

"We do not want Prince Edward Island to be known around the world as the home of the first FrankenFish," said P.E.I. activist Leo Broderick, of the Council of Canadians.

"This is the first animal that has extra growth hormone built into it," said Jaydee Hanson, of the Center for Food Safety in Washington.

"You know, we have shot animals up with growth hormone, we have fed hormones to animals to get them to grow faster. This is the first time we've built it into the animal."

Lucy Sharratt, of the Canadian Biotechnology Network, contends Canada should ban production of the transgenic salmon eggs.

"They assumed that once they got U.S. approval, they would be able to get approval in Canada and approval in Panama, neither of which they have," she said.

'No concern to human health'

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UNB biology professor Tillman Benfey believes opposition to the fish is based on emotion, not facts. ((CBC))

But University of New Brunswick biology professor Tillman Benfey, who was part of international scientific reviews that found the AquaAdvantage salmon safe to eat, sees no need for a ban.

"The FDA has effectively said that from a scientific perspective there is no concern for human health, but they haven't made their final decision I think largely because of the large amount of feedback they got from people who opposed this," he said.

He said he believes the opposition to the fish is based on emotion, not facts.

"[It]

comes from a fear of things we don't understand. So I think many people don't understand what's actually being done to produce these fish," he said.

"And that lack of understanding, I think, understandably leads to fear."

The AquaAdvantage salmon was developed in 1989 at Memorial University in Newfoundland.

AquaBounty has been trying to get FDA approval to sell the salmon as food since 2001.

Environmentalists have expressed concern that these fish could escape into the wild and damage wild salmon populations. AquaBounty has said that risk is small. The fish would be reared in enclosed pools, and 99 per cent of them would be sterile.