July 20, 2016
HALIFAX, NS; VANCOUVER, BC – The federal government needs to step back and take a long look at its policies to protect wild aquatic ecosystems, say two conservation organizations, the Ecology Action Centre (EAC) and Living Oceans Society (LOS). They sent a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (attached) asking for a strategic environmental assessment of genetically engineered aquatic organisms.
“We have concerns around the difficulties in detection, recovery and or mitigation of biotechnology in aquatic environments. We think there needs to be greater attention paid to identifying and preventing potential harms,” said Karen Wristen, executive director of LOS.
“It has been 20 years since Canada first enacted legislation to deal with genetically engineered organisms,” said Calinda Brown, GM Salmon Campaign Coordinator. “New biotechnologies like CRISPR and genetic barcoding are becoming cheaper and more readily available. How will they affect our wild ecosystems and do we have the necessary protections in place?”
A strategic environmental assessment (SEA) is intended “to ensure, or at least encourage and facilitate, effective integration of environmental considerations in the conception, planning/design, approval and implementation of policies, plans, programmes and other strategic undertakings. SEA is also intended to enhance the openness and credibility of strategic level decision making.”*
“Genetically engineered salmon is the first wild animal altered by biotechnology approved for human consumption. But there are many other species at the research stage. Now is the time to review our regulatory system for these manufactured animals and the technologies used to make them before they enter commercial production,” said Calinda Brown.
“A strategic environmental assessment also provides the public with a chance to share its thoughts and ideas about policies, plans and programmes,” said Karen Wristen. “There is no other opportunity for the average citizen to raise concerns they may have about these technologies. We saw that with the approval for genetically modified salmon – done in secret with no input from stakeholders, indigenous peoples or the public. A SEA would provide that opportunity.”
*Law and Policy Options for SEA in Canada, East Coast Environmental Law