P.E.I. Green Party leader questions AquaBounty safety in legislature

A recent court challenge in the U.S. has the leader of P.E.I.'s third party, Peter Bevan-Baker, asking questions about the safety of GMO salmon producer AquaBounty's Island operations.

'The introduction of GM salmon into the wild could irreversibly harm or destroy wild salmon populations '

P.E.I.'s Green Party wants to know what measures are in place to prevent the release of GM salmon eggs into the wild from AquaBounty's Island facility. (Associated Press)

A recent court challenge in the U.S. has the leader of P.E.I.'s third party, Peter Bevan-Baker, asking questions about the safety of GMO salmon producer AquaBounty's Island operations. 

Massachusetts-based AquaBounty raises the salmon eggs in a facility in Bay Fortune, P.E.I., and exports them to Panama, where they're grown to adulthood in above-ground tanks. The company received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in November 2015 to sell the first genetically modified food animal in the world.

In the legislature during question period Tuesday, Bevan-Baker cited a lawsuit launched a couple of weeks ago by a group of environmental, consumer, and commercial and recreational fishing organizations against the FDA.

"One of the arguments cited in that challenge is that the P.E.I. facility presents, and I quote, 'a substantial environmental risk'," said Bevan-Baker, noting AquaBounty's building is 45 metres from the ocean.  

Green Party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker expressed concern over the security of AquaBounty's Island operations. (CBC)

He asked what measures are in place to ensure no fish or eggs escape from the facility, and how prepared it is for an emergency like fire or natural disasters such as hurricanes.

"The introduction of GM salmon into the wild could irreversibly harm or destroy wild salmon populations that are already in decline." 

An application by two environmental groups to the Federal Court of Canada to stop production of genetically-modified salmon on P.E.I. failed last December — the court ruled the government's approval process was fine. 

'Very secure'

"It is well looked after, it is well regarded, very secure," assured P.E.I. Fisheries Minister Alan McIsaac, who noted that he'd toured the facility.

"One of the biggest concerns that they look at and make sure there is no concern for is the fact there may be escape of eggs from that facility. And from what I can see, and from what the department has looked at and seen, it is living up to those standards," said McIsaac. 

McIsaac promised to get Bevan-Baker more specific information about his concerns about emergency contingencies. 

AquaBounty has also just applied to repurpose a 38-year-old fish hatchery in Rollo Bay West, P.E.I., as it looks to expand its commercial production, which Bevan-Baker said provides new possible points of entry for GM salmon eggs into the wild. 

AquaBounty salmon grow at twice the rate of regular farmed Atlantic salmon.

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