The decision by Robert Mitchell, P.E.I.’s minister of Communities, Land and Environment, to allow genetically modified salmon to be grown in Prince Edward Island was the result of a faulty environmental assessment process. So, says the Coalition for the Protection of P.E.I. Water.

Representatives of the coalition met with Mitchell to discuss their concern about the approval of the proposal by AquaBounty Canada Inc. to expand its plant in Rollo Bay West. The original approval, which was for an egg production facility, was expanded to a facility at which genetically modified salmon would be grown to market size and then killed before being exported.

The fact the new application by AquaBounty was judged not to warrant a new environmental assessment is of particular concern. Gary Schneider sits on the Multi-Interest Advisory Committee reviewing federal environmental assessment processes. He says there should have been a new and complete environmental impact assessment given that the new AquaBounty proposal was so substantially different from the original application. Approval of that original application was a year ago, and the stated intention then was to only grow GMO eggs to be shipped elsewhere to be raised.

The coalition is also concerned about environmental impacts from the new facility, and the potential for contamination of the wild salmon population should a GMO organism escape.

P.E.I. is now the first place in the world where GMO animals are grown for human consumption. This happened without any kind of public discussion, says Don Mazer, who also attended the meeting with the minister.

In responding to the coalition’s concerns, the minister indicated that responsibility for such projects is shared between different levels and departments of government. He construed his own responsibilities quite specifically, and was pleased the current project would use less water than the initial project (approved a year ago), due to a plan to recirculate the water. The minister told the group he believes any broad ethical discussion about the merits of GMOs would be a federal responsibility.

“From our perspective, this approval is a clear reflection of how inadequate the current Environmental Impact Assessment processes are,” says coalition member Ann Wheatley.