OTTAWA – Public interest groups are headed to the Federal Court of Appeal to fight a ruling they say creates far too much uncertainty about the environmental risks of commercial grow-out of genetically modified salmon.
“Government scientists did not evaluate the grow-out of these genetically modified salmon in Canada,” said Mark Butler, Policy Director at Ecology Action Centre. “We are concerned about the probability of escapes and the risk to wild salmon. There are some unanswered questions about how and where these fish can be used and we are looking for clear answers from the court to protect the environment and wild salmon.”
Ecojustice lawyers, acting on behalf of Ecology Action Centre and Living Oceans Society, filed the appeal. The groups seek clear direction from the Federal Court of Appeal about the implications of the government’s 2013 decision which could allow AquaBounty’s genetically modified salmon to be used at locations and in ways that were not assessed according to requirements under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA).
“Although the lower court agreed with us that the law prohibits the federal government from allowing AquaBounty to use this genetically modified organism at locations other than at its assessed facility in P.E.I., our clients are still concerned that the decision leaves too many questions unanswered,” said Kaitlyn Mitchell, Ecojustice lawyer. “Decision-making about genetically modified organisms must follow the requirements in the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. The protection of biodiversity and safety of human health depends on it.”
Under CEPA, before a new genetically modified organism can be manufactured in Canada, the Minister of the Environment and the Minister of Health must collect and assess all required information in order to determine whether the organism is toxic or capable of becoming toxic to human health or biodiversity.
“We want to see the Federal Court’s decision overturned,” said Karen Wristen, executive director of Living Oceans Society. “The Canadian Environmental Protection Act was designed to ensure that new products of biotechnology are assessed in a precautionary manner. If the risks posed by the use and commercial grow-out of AquaBounty’s genetically-modified salmon were not assessed, then it should not be given the go-ahead according to the Act. It’s that simple.”