PEI

Genetically-modified salmon plant environmental assessment 'woefully inadequate,' says coalition

It was a faulty environmental assessment process that allowed a company in eastern P.E.I. to build a plant that will produce the first genetically-modified food animal in North America, says the Coalition for the Protection of P.E.I. Water.

'A classic example of project splitting'

AquaBounty's genetically-modified salmon grow at a much faster rate that regular salmon. (AquaBounty)

It was a faulty environmental assessment process that allowed a company in eastern P.E.I. to build a plant that will produce the first genetically-modified food animal in North America, says the Coalition for the Protection of P.E.I. Water.

AquaBounty received permission in mid-June to build an enclosed facility in Rollo Bay West that will produce 250 tonnes of genetically-modified salmon a year for food.

The company received initial approval for the plant in 2016. What was approved at the time was an egg production facility, with the eggs being shipped out of the country to be grown to market size. AquaBounty amended its proposal after receiving approval.

In June, the minister of communities, land and environment ordered amendments to the company's plan in order to address concerns raised during public consultations. Now, the company must inform government "in the event of escape or release of fish, at any stage of their life cycle" according to a letter from the Minister, addressed to AquaBounty.

The province also ordered AquaBounty to provide monthly water-quality test results for a minimum of two years. 

AquaBounty's genetically-modified salmon was approved as food for humans in May of 2016. (AquaBounty)

"The environmental impact assessment for this project was woefully inadequate," said coalition member Gary Schneider, who also sits on the multi-interest advisory committee reviewing federal environmental assessment processes.

"This is a classic example of project splitting, where the company was able to get approval for a smaller piece of the project (raising eggs) and then returned a short time later with what would seem to be their actual plan, thereby avoiding an independent evaluation of a very different project."

The group also said the public consultation process was inadequate and poorly advertised.