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Excuse Me, Is That Salmon Genetically Modified?

After a drawn-out battle, Canadian consumers will be able to eat locally sourced genetically modified salmon.

On Tuesday, regulators north of the border approved Canada's first commercial farm for genetically modified salmon, Agence France-Presse reports. The fish farm, located in Rollo Bay, Prince Edward Island, is actually owned by US biotech AquaBounty, which told the news agency that it intends to stock the facility, which can produce up to 550,000 pounds of fish each year, "as soon as possible."

The first harvest is expected at the end of 2020.

Each of the fish has a gene that allows them to grow at an accelerated rate to reach adult size in 16 to 18 months compared to 30 months for natural Atlantic salmon, AFP says. It added that both the US and Canada have determined that the fish are safe for consumption, but not everyone agrees.

"This decision means more Canadians will be eating GM salmon without knowing," says Lucy Sharratt of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, who noted that genetically modified foods in Canada are not required to be labeled as such.

Others also argue that the genetically rejiggered fish may harm their unaltered cousins. "More GM salmon means more risk to wild Atlantic salmon. That is the science," Mark Butler of the Ecology Action Centre in Nova Scotia, tells CBC.

GM salmon have been available to Canadians for some time already. Nearly two years ago, AquaBounty said that it sold about 4.5 tons of GM salmon to customers in Canada, the first time that a genetically engineered animal was sold as food on the open market there. The company reportedly had spent more than 25 years pursuing the right to do so.

Meanwhile, in the US, the Associated Press said last month that the US Food and Drug Administration lifted an alert that prevented AquaBounty from selling the fish, called AquaAdvantage, here. The move could potentially greenlight the company to sell the fish in the US. However, the company is facing a pending lawsuit from consumer, environmental, and fishing groups that challenges FDA's approval of the fish.

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