|Look away, back to me, now look away!|
On March 10, 2014 the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network disclosed that an investment filing at the London Stock Exchange confirmed that AquaBounty is now also seeking approval for human consumption of its GM salmon in Canada. In contrast, Health Canada has consistently refused to confirm or deny that AquaBounty had made any application for approval to sell the genetically modified (GM) fish in Canada.
The Ecology Action Centre (EAC) and Living Oceans Society (LOS) spoke out today against the cloud of secrecy obscuring federal government approvals of genetically modified (GM) organisms in Canada – including what may be the world’s first GM food animal to hit supermarket shelves: AquAdvantage™ salmon.
In December of 2013, EAC and LOS brought a legal action against the Ministers of Environment Canada and Health Canada, as well as AquaBounty Canada Inc., asking the Federal Court to decide if the Canadian government violated its own law when it permitted the manufacture of genetically modified salmon to proceed. “By granting approval for this genetically modified species without obtaining all the legally required information, the government has failed to meet their legal obligation,” they said. i.e. assessment of safety, invasiveness etc.
Since the suit, Environment Canada published an after-the-fact notice of a government information waiver granted to U.S. parent company AquaBounty Technologies Inc. Under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (1999), the Minister of Environment has the power to exempt applicants from providing all the information the law normally requires.
Minister of Environment waived: “Data from a test conducted to determine its pathogenicity, toxicity or invasiveness”. No other info!
Conveniently, waivers can be granted to bypass important safety information if:
(a) in the opinion of the Ministers, the information is not needed in order to determine whether the substance or living organism is toxic or capable of becoming toxic;
(b) the substance or living organism is to be used for a prescribed purpose or manufactured at a location where, in the opinion of the Ministers, the person requesting the waiver is able to contain the substance or living organism so as to satisfactorily protect the environment and human health; or
(c) it is not, in the opinion of the Ministers, practicable or feasible to obtain the test data necessary to generate the information;
Environment Canada refuses to provide a copy of the full waiver or reasons for the decision – although the government’s lawyer recently confirmed that the waiver notice does relate to AquAdvantage™ salmon.
Karen Wristen, the executive director of LOS said:
Every aspect of the assessment of this GM salmon has been shrouded in government secrecy. We’re going to continue to fight this case, and to challenge Canada’s lack of transparency and denial of public scrutiny.
Frustrated by the obfuscation, Joanne Cook, EAC co-ordinator said:
We can’t challenge the issuance of this waiver, because we don’t know the basis for the government’s decision. Environment Canada has found a perfect Catch-22.
After being denied information from the government’s lawyer, LOS filed requests through Canada’s Access to Information Act. Wristen also noted that “EAC and LOS are crowdfunding part of the legal costs through Indiegogo – to give everyone who’s concerned about the manufacture of GM salmon and the lack of procedural transparency the chance to contribute.”
Canada and the U.S have been neck-and-neck in an eager race to approve GM salmon. For either country that does, the other is sure to follow. Environment Canada found a way to do so behind closed doors; and they don’t want to talk about it.
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