Opposition to GM salmon has no scientific basis: researcher

Daniel MacEachern dmaceachern@thetelegram.com
Published on March 15, 2014
Memorial University professor Dr. Garth Fletcher is shown at his research lab at the Memorial University's Ocean Sciences Centre (Marine Lab) in Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

A scientist behind genetically modified salmon technology says new opposition to his work is misguided.
Dr. Garth Fletcher of Memorial University’s department of ocean scientists said Friday that two environmental groups opposed to the sale of AquAdvantage salmon for human consumption — currently being assessed by Health Canada — are rehashing old arguments that have no basis.

“They’ve been against it for about 20 years. They haven’t changed their minds. Of course it’s safe,” said Fletcher, one of the scientists whose work in the 1980s is being used by AquaBounty of Massachusetts, who want to sell the salmon in Canada., adding he finds it silly, not frustrating, to have to keep defending his work.

“They don’t have any scientific basis for their argument, and I’m a scientist. But you know, what can you do?” he said. “This is what they like to do, and it’s just part of human society, that there are those who are against things and those who are for them. They haven’t any argument that’s based on a scientific issue.”

As reported by The Telegram on Friday, the Halifax-based Ecology Action Centre and the Vancouver-based Living Oceans Society have accused the federal government of not following the proper process in allowing AquaBounty to produce AquAdvantage eggs in Prince Edward Island, and of being secretive about the assessment of the salmon flesh. If the federal government allows the sale, it would be the first time genetically modified meat has been approved for human consumption in Canada.

Fletcher said he’s confident Health Canada will give the meat the go-ahead, but he’s unsure whether it will be a tough sell in the marketplace. “You have all these groups that are against it in general,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s here or in the United States.”

But he noted AquaBounty’s counting on it being successful.

“It’s really the company that takes the risk. That’s what they’re doing,” he said.

“One would like to think the product will get to the marketplace. I can’t tell you how successful the product will be as a commercial venture, because that’s a marketplace thing.”

 

dmaceachern@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @TelegramDaniel