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Complaint in Panama Raises Concerns About GM fish Research in Canada

November 21, 2013. Ottawa. The Environmental Advocacy Center of Panama (Centro de Incidencia Ambiental de Panama or CIAM) today submitted a complaint to the National Environmental Authority in Panama alleging that the U.S. company AquaBounty is in breach of environmental regulations in its research and development of genetically modified (GM) Atlantic salmon.

AquaBounty has a research facility in Prince Edward Island (PEI), Canada, where it produces GM salmon eggs. The eggs are shipped to its Panama location for further research and development.

“How can Islanders trust a company to manage the huge risks of growing GM fish eggs and fish? We’re concerned that GM salmon eggs from PEI could have already caused environmental problems in Panama,” said Sharon Labchuk of the PEI group called Islanders Say No to Frankenfish,

The company has asked for approval of the GM Atlantic salmon for human consumption in the U.S., based on a plan to produce the GM fish eggs in PEI, and ship them to Panama for grow-out and processing. The company may have asked for approval in Canada for commercial production of the fish eggs and/or fish, or for human consumption, but the Canadian government and company have repeatedly refused to provide this information.

If approved, the GM fish would be the first GM food animal in the world.

“Canada’s Minister of Environment should take note of the complaint and consider the impact of an environmental escape in Panama. All the GM fish eggs come from PEI and Canada needs to take responsibility for creating an international environmental risk,” said Lucy Sharratt of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network.

Today, the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network sent a letter to the Minister of the Environment, Leona Aglukkaq, outlining the complaint in Panama and asking for a detailed explanation of how Environment Canada will assess the risks of the GM fish.

In its administrative filing, CIAM has alleged AquaBounty’s non-compliance with several national environmental regulations at its Panama location, as well as the failure of the Panamanian government to enforce compliance.

The National Environmental Authority in Panama conducted an inspection of AquaBounty’s operation in 2012 which reportedly found violations of environmental regulations, that apparently remain uncorrected by the company, including failure to submit monitoring reports to the government every three months as required, and despite repeated requests from the government, as well as failure to obtain permits for wastewater discharge, even as government analyses of surrounding waterways show elevated coliform levels.

CIAM is seeking AquaBounty’s compliance to national and international environmental regulations. The Canadian Biotechnology Action Network and groups in the U.S. and Europe submitted a joint letter supporting CIAM’s administrative claim, to Panamanian authorities.

For more information: Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator, Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, 613 241 2267 ext 25; Sharon Labchuk, Islanders Say No to Frankenfish, 902 626 7327. www.cban.ca/fish

The Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN) is a campaign coalition of 17 groups including farmer associations, environmental groups, regional coalitions of grassroots groups, and international development organizations, all of which have various concerns about genetic engineering in food and farming. www.cban.ca/fish

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