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Did you know? Canada’s first to sell unlabelled GE animals for human consumption. Thanks, Health Canada

In Environment
Jan 3rd, 2018
Walrus photo

Please Enjoy Your Genetically Engineered Dinner

by Christopher Pollon The Walrus

Last year, Canada became the first country to sell unlabelled transgenic animals for human consumption. But do consumers have an appetite for it?

Between April and June, Canadians participated in an unprecedented experiment: supermarket shoppers bought about five tonnes of genetically engineered (GE) Atlantic salmon, making it the first transgenic animal approved and sold for human consumption anywhere in the world. What’s notable, beyond the precedent, is that none of the shoppers knew they were buying it.

The fish sold in this first pilot sale was the AquaBounty AquAdvantage Atlantic salmon—a GE fish that grows to market size in half the time as conventionally farmed salmon. Developed at Newfoundland’s Memorial University in the early 1990s, the fish combines a growth hormone gene from a Chinook salmon with a regulatory switch from another fish, enabling the salmon to produce growth hormones all the time.

It has taken twenty years for this fish to be approved for human consumption in both the United States and Canada, but complications over disclosure rules for GE animals are keeping the fish out of American stores for now. This has not been the case in Canada, where Health Canada does not require the GE fish—sold mostly as filets to restaurants and supermarkets—to be labelled in any way.

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