To what extent should we continue
to welcome genetically modified organisms
("GMOs") into our food systems?
The question has continued to invoke impassioned responses in
recent years, with GMOs simultaneously touted by some as the
salvation to global food security issues while decried by others as
a menace to human health, the environment, and development.
With the recent approval of a genetically modified
salmon for human consumption in the US, the debates have taken on a
company, has developed a genetic recipe for a species of
salmon–the "AquAdvantage" salmon–that grows
at twice the rate of a regular salmon. Currently, the eggs for the
salmon are grown in a facility in PEI and then shipped to Panama,
where the fish are raised.
The AquAdvantage Salmon has now been approved by the US Food and
Drug Administration ("FDA") as safe to eat. The product
is currently undergoing a similar review by Health Canada.
Although GMOs have been a mainstay, albeit often unseen, of our
food systems for decades, the AquAdvantage salmon appears to be the
first GMO food animal approved for human consumption in the
Given that GMOs continue to inspire fear as
potentially harmful to human health (although there is
presently little scientific consensus to support this), as harmful
to the environment, and as ethically
questionable for patenting life forms, it is no wonder
that the FDA approval has prompted criticism. In light of such
misgivings, many, even those who see approval of the fish
as overall beneficial for the environment — the
AquAdvantage salmon purportedly consumes fewer resources and is
raised in land-based pens — have called for the
fish to be appropriately labeled as a GMO.
Labelling, of course, would allow consumers to decide themselves
whether or not they are ready to invite GMO animals onto their
dinner plates. The FDA initially indicated that it would not
require the salmon to be labelled, while strongly suggesting that
manufacturers such as AquaBounty do so voluntarily (though the
company has, thus far, indicated it does not plan to label its
product voluntarily ). It now appears that the FDA will in fact be
required to come up with a label before the fish can be imported
into the US.
The fish has been challenged on a different front in Canada. A
group of environmental groups asked the Federal Court to overturn
the federal government's approval of the export of these eggs
on the basis this approval was contrary to certain requirements
under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act
Under CEPA, new GMOs can only be manufactured in Canada
after the federal Ministers of the Environment and Health have
collected certain information and assessed whether the GMO is
toxic or could become toxic to human health or biodiversity (s.
108). In essence, the Applicants argued that the Ministers of
Environment and Health did not lawfully conduct this assessment and
therefore at this time the eggs cannot be manufactured in
Ontario's Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change continues to roll out its Climate Change Action Plan with its proposed GHG guide for projects that are subject to the province's Environmental Assessment Act.
The Imperial Oil refinery pled guilty to one offence for discharging a contaminant, coker stabilizer, thermocracked gas, into the natural environment causing an adverse effect and was fined $650,000...
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