Missing Permits Raise Stakes for Escape of AquaBounty’s Genetically Engineered Salmon



International Groups call on Panamanian Government to Correct Flaws in Regulatory Oversight

Washington, D.C.—AquaBounty’s experimental production facility of genetically engineered (GE) salmon in Panama is missing multiple legally required permits and inspections, including a wastewater discharge permit, according to an administrative claim filed today in Panama by the environmental group Centro de Incidencia Ambiental de Panama (CIAM).

Food & Water Watch, Center for Food Safety and Friends of the Earth were part of an international coalition of groups who supported CIAM’s administrative claim by submitting a letter to Panamanian authorities today, which raises serious questions regarding AquaBounty’s ability to comply with basic environmental regulations. 

“These allegations suggest a dangerous pattern of non-compliance and mismanagement by AquaBounty, raising the likelihood of an environmentally damaging escape of these fish,” said George Kimbrell, senior attorney for Center for Food Safety. “This news further undermines the empty assurances that AquaBounty and the Food and Drug Administration have given the public and suggests that Panama’s environmental laws may have also been broken.”

Science Stacks Up Against GM Salmon



Brussels – The news released yesterday that GM salmon can pass on their modified DNA to brown trout is yet another blow to arguments in favour of commercialising the transgenic fish for food. Food & Water Europe today demanded that European regulators use these scientific revelations to protect EU habitats and consumers by urging the FDA to reject the application to commercialise GM salmon.

The authors of the paper from the Memorial University of Newfoundland, published by the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, shows that GM salmon would have “substantial ecological consequences for wild Atlantic salmon should they ever come into contact with nature.”

When GM salmon were crossed with brown trout, roughly 40 percent of the offspring acquired the GM genes. These GM offspring grow more quickly than wild salmon, trout or salmon-trout hybrids in a commercial laboratory setting.

Food & Water Europe Food Policy Advisor Eve Mitchell said, “European regulators keep saying they base their decisions on GMOs on science. The scientists are explicitly telling them they need to look at this problem. Given the huge threats to European wildlife, habitats and industries, not to mention the complete lack of demand for GM fish as food, the very least the European regulators can do is protest most strongly to the FDA not to approve the GM salmon.”

The FDA is in the final throes of deciding on the application by biotech company AquaBounty for authorisation to sell the fish as food. Dogged by controversy, including evasion of full environmental impacts assessment by placing egg production and growing facilities outside the U.S., the company dismisses the problem by claiming the hybrid offspring are sterile and that in any case the GM fish will be kept in contained facilities. Yet the ability to reproduce successfully is far from the only problem, and the chequered history of fish farm escapes shows how error or accident are the real risks.

Ms. Mitchell said, “It’s accidents we are worried about, and they simply can’t be ruled out. This research begins to hint at the wide-ranging problems such accidents will bring. AquaBounty attempts to argue that the GM hybrid offspring pose no problem because they are sterile, but this does not solve the problem if those GM fish outcompete natural fish for food, nest sites, mates and so on. This could have devastating impacts on natural wild fish.”

On 23 May the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published guidance on performing risk assessment of GM animals, including fish, insects, birds, pets and farm animals. Campaigners say the move is both premature and against the wishes of European consumers, who roundly reject GM animals for food. GeneWatch UK expressed disappointment these guidelines were issued before the European Ombudsman had a chance to rule on the organisation’s complaint about EFSA’s failure to consult on GM insects in the food chain and about conflicts-of-interest on EFSA’s GM insects working group. Nevertheless the regulatory guidance is now in place for an application to be made to authorise the GM fish as food in the EU should the FDA give commercialisation the nod.

Ms. Mitchell added, “The FDA has done extremely poor scientific work assessing the environmental impacts of GM salmon since the beginning, and this new, independent research highlights yet again the agency’s failure to protect the public and the environment. There is a clear need to protect European wild salmon and trout, the angling and fishing industries for both, the ancillary businesses associated with those industries and tourism, and the natural environment upon which other animals rely.”

For more information:

Eve Mitchell: +44(0)1381 610 740  [email protected]

Factory-Fed Fish: How the Soy Industry is Expanding into the Sea


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Read the full report.


The soy industry’s involvement in aquaculture is a tale of how far-reaching the influence of a large,powerful, well-organized agribusiness can be. Although soy is an unexpected and unnatural food for fish to eat, the research and outreach funded by the soy industry has propelled it to the forefront of alternative feed research in the aquaculture industry. Because of the widespread concern about fish farming’s reliance on small, wild fish for feed, the industry has been able to position soybeans as an answer to aquaculture’s sustainability problems. Unfortunately, however, feeding soy to fish is far from sustainable. By supporting factory fish farming, the soy industry could not only help to expand an industry that degrades marine environments, threatens wild fish populations and damages coastal communities, it could also extend its own negative impacts.

Who’s Benefitting from Factory Farm Fishing


FoodCommon Resources

Offshore aquaculture is factory fish farming of the sea, growing fish in huge, often over-crowded cages out in ocean waters. It can be problematic for both the environment and the economy. The waste – fecal matter, uneaten food, and any chemicals or drugs used in the operation – flows directly into the ocean, and the result could be long-term damage to the seafloor. Despite its negative impacts, the following groups push for, or would profit from, factory fish farming in the United States and Europe.


Fishy Formula: Why the European Strategy Doesn’t Add up to Sustainable Aquaculture


FoodCommon Resources

The factory fish farming industry is pushing to expand. As wild fish populations decline and consumers continue to look to seafood as a healthy food option, open water aquaculture –raising fish in captivity – offers what the industry hopes will the public will believe is sustainable and healthy means to meet seafood demand. But behind the industry’s claims lies a darker story marked by corporate exploitation, rampant polution, massive fish escapes, disease outbreaks, and dependence on dangerous chemicals.