It's North America's most contentious fish: a salmon conceived in Massachusetts and raised in Panama. It's AquAdvantage, a genetically modified salmon from the company AquaBounty. After a comprehensive assessment, Health Canada has announced its approval of commercial sales of the genetically engineered fish. The government agency's study reviewed the following factors: how the fish is engineered; how its composition and nutritional profile compares to non-modified salmon; its potential to be toxic or allergenic; and the fish's own health status.
Health Canada's findings echoes those of the FDA which declared genetically modified salmon fit for human consumption in November 2015. "[T]here are now two independent reviews by two of the most sophisticated and demanding regulators in the world and both have come to the same conclusion," AquaBounty CEO Ronald L. Stotish, Ph.D. said in a press statement.
Of course, you can't discuss GMOs without a battle for labeling, and the same arguments over labeling in the U.S. are playing out in Canada. "Canadians could now be faced with the world's first genetically modified food animal, approved with no public consultation and no labeling," Lucy Sharratt, coordinator at the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, told the Guardian.
But this heated fight — despite consistent reports that GMOs are safe for consumption— often fosters the stigma and perceived dangers surrounding GMOs. In the U.S. for example, when Chipotle eliminated GMOs from its menus (with the exception of soda sales), it brought anti-GMO hysteria to the fast-casual scene. An AquaBounty spokesman says the company hasn't yet concluded whether the fish will be labeled as genetically modified, or even under the company's brand, according to the Guardian.
Though the puzzle over labeling has yet to be solved, AquAdvantage sales in Canadian grocery stores could begin within a year. And so this genetically modified fish may have more success at entering Canadian markets than American, despite the FDA's similar approval. This is because the FDA banned the product until it can reach a consensus on how it will be labeled, a hairy bureaucratic process that could take American legislators years. Classic. The Canadian government is more optimistic, and, it would seem, likes to get things done: A special committee will make its labeling recommendations within the year, according to the Canadian Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay.