Canada approves 'safe and nutritious' genetically modified salmon

© Carlos Barria
Health authorities in Canada have approved the sale of genetically modified salmon, making it the first genetically altered animal to be allowed for consumption in the country.

The AquAdvantage salmon cultivated by Massachusetts-based AquaBounty Technologies is described as being as healthy as traditional Atlantic salmon for food and livestock feed use, according to a statement.

“GM foods that have been approved by Health Canada have been consumed in Canada for many years, and are safe and nutritious,” the agency said, adding that GM foods were part of the regular diet of Canadians.

All genetically altered foods previously approved by Health Canada have been crops.

The genetically changed salmon is usually ready for sale in 16-18 months, while conventional fish need up to three years to come to the market.

The salmon will appear on supermarket shelves in 18 months, according to Health Minister Jane Philpott. “While this is the first product of this nature to be reviewed, it will not likely be the last,” said the minister as cited by Reuters.

As Health Canada sees no health and safety risks, there will be no special labeling requirements for the new product.

AquaBounty Technologies has a production facility in the Canadian province of Prince Edward Island. “We are pleased to receive the approvals of the various authorities of Canada which means we can produce, sell and eat our AquAdvantage Salmon in Canada,” said company CEO Ronald Stotish.

Canadian activist groups are concerned about the decision, calling for mandatory labeling of all genetically modified foods produced in the country.

“Canadians could now be faced with the world’s first genetically altered food animal, approved with no public consultation and no labeling,” said Lucy Sharratt of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network as quoted by the Guardian.