The CEO of an American company producing genetically modified salmon eggs in eastern Prince Edward Island is brushing off criticism from anti-GMO groups.
AquaBounty announced this week it had received approval from Environment Canada to produce the eggs on a commercial scale. It had been operating as a research facility.
Critics have complained the Canadian government's approval of its hatchery in Bay Fortune, P.E.I., was done in secret without public consultation.
CEO Ron Stotish doesn't understand why risk assessments in the U.S. and Canada haven't convinced critics the fast-growing salmon can be produced safely.
"I think there's a simple choice here. Are you going to believe the professionals, the skilled scientists, or the people that are constantly beating the drum that there is some sort of conspiracy between the government and industry to somehow damage the environment?" asked Stotish.
"I think frankly their accusations don't merit comment."
Stotish said the P.E.I. hatchery won't scale up to commercial production unless AquaBounty gets approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to sell its salmon there.
The salmon produced by AquaBounty grow at twice the rate of regular salmon, making them an attractive option for rearing in salmon farms. Commercial production for the company would see ship the eggs from P.E.I. to Panama to be grown into adults and harvested there.
Stotish said having Canada's approval moves the company one step closer, adding this decision came after a rigorous review.
"We are perhaps the most scrutinized facility in the history of fisheries. It's not just one or two visits for the purpose of this review," he said.
"We're visited on a continuing basis, and it's probably a dozen times a year between DFO, Environment Canada and other agencies. They examine all our procedures, they examine all of our records, they've examined the facility. And in fact, I think we may have set the standard for inspections of facilities of this type."
The latest review included a DFO risk assessment that found, with reasonable certainty, that operations at the hatchery pose a low risk to the P.E.I. environment.
The same report does note, however, that if procedures or activities change, and fish escape, that could pose a high hazard to the environment. Given that, any significant new developments at the hatchery would require another Environment Canada review.