Salmon that has been genetically modified to grow faster has been approved. Health Canada states “in every other way, the AquaAdvantage salmon is identical to other farmed salmon”. Not true. For one thing, it has higher levels of the growth hormone IGF-1[i] [ii], which is tied to several common cancers, including prostate, breast, colorectum, and lung[iii]. For another, some of the GM salmon show a statistically significant increase (1.5 fold) in allergen content. Lastly, the eggs are pressure shocked to produce an abnormality so that they aren’t fertile.

I’m not eating that fish. Would you eat that fish?

And these three points on GM salmon are set out in Health Canada’s own document[iv]. So how can Health Canada approve the fish? Simple: it is silent on these points or it accepts the explanations presented by AquaBounty that the points aren’t “relevant”:

  • On the finding of higher levels of IGF-1, Health Canada accepts this is “not toxicologically relevant since a daily serving of AAS containing the highest potential level of IGF-1 … would not exceed the levels of IGF-1 present in a daily serving of milk and will have negligible health effects on the most sensitive subpopulation (teenage boys).”
  • On the finding of allerginicity, Health Canada accepts the opinions of experts provided by AquaBounty that “the elevation in allergen content in diploid AquaAdvantage Salmon is unlikely to be relevant in terms of a biological/clinical response and that this elevation would not exceed the variation that might occur when a consumer eats a small or a large portion of food”.
  • It doesn’t speak to the shocking of the eggs.

But the mandate of Health Canada is “the protection of the people of Canada against risks to health” (Department of Health Act). When it comes to GM salmon, it was supposed to review the information provided by AquaBounty to see if it “establishes that the novel food is safe for consumption” (Food and Drug Regulations B.28.002(1)). And the Trudeau government promised it would ensure that “scientific analyses are considered when the government makes decisions”.

The evidence on GM salmon showed concerns about toxicity and allerginicity, but it was approved anyways. If the government wants to live up to its promise and its mandate on GM foods, it needs to be convinced that science establishes the food is safe for consumption. Not explain away the concerns as not relevant. I’m not buying it.

[i] Hansen, Michael. Comments of Consumers Union on Genetically Engineered Salmon, Food and Drug Administration Docket No. FDA-201034-N-0001, Veterinary Medicine Advisory

Committee Meeting. Rep. Consumers Union, 16 Sept. 2010, at 6. Web. <>.

[ii] The Technical Summary of Health Canada noted a level of muscle-skin IGF-1 that was 50% greater in one fish. [cite]

[iii] Herbert Yu, Thomas Rohan. Role of the Insulin-Like Growth Factor Family in Cancer Development and Progression. J Natl Cancer Inst 2000;92:1472–89

[iv] Health Canada. Novel Food Information – AquaAdvantage Salmon. Technical Summary.

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