Canada’s aquaculture industry says its retailers and consumers are not interested in genetically modified salmon despite recent approvals from the federal government.

“We’re not really interested in seeing genetically modified technology move forward when our customers are not interested,” Ruth Salmon, executive director of the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance told the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food Tuesday.

“We do not need, nor do we intend to employ genetically modified salmon in Canada.”

Aquaculture, more commonly known as fish farming, is the cultivation of fish and other aquatic organisms in controlled environments. Sales of Canadian aquaculture products and services amounted to $735.4 million in 2014, according to Statistics Canada.

The Canadian aquaculture industry, Salmon noted, supports Health Canada’s decision because it was “based on sound science”  and said it would back whatever federal decision is made on the file, including mandatory GMO labelling on the new salmon.

“Our position is we want Canadians to eat more salmon” and seafood, Salmon told MPs. Health Canada currently recommends Canadians eat salmon or fish twice a week. The average Canadian, she said, barely eats two meals of salmon a month.

Increased global demand can be met with current technology, Salmon explained, adding that here in Canada the industry’s growth has stalled in the last decade more because of regulatory issues around new site approvals etc. Those hurdles, Salmon said, are often intensified because the industry is both federally and provincially regulated.

Salmon’s testimony comes as the House agriculture committee is studying genetically modified animals. The topic was assigned at the request of Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay after Health Canada approved AquAdvantage Salmon for human and livestock consumption last May after “thorough and rigorous scientific reviews.”

The fish is the first genetically modified animal to be approved for use in Canada. The committee’s recommendations must be presented to MacAulay by the end of December.

Developed by Massachusett’s-based AquaBounty, AquAdvantage Salmon is an Atlantic Salmon that has a growth hormone gene from a Chinook salmon and a fragment of ocean pout DNA that speeds up growth. The result is a fast-growing fish that’s ready for market in 18 months rather than three years.

Tuesday’s hearing comes as environmentalists are in federal court in Ottawa to appeal ruling that upheld Health Canada’s approval for genetically modified salmon.

Canadian aquaculture accounts for nearly 9 per cent of global farmed salmon production with most of that fish farmed in British Columbia and New Brunswick. Some 8,000 Canadians are directly employed by the industry. Fourteen per cent of Canada’s fisheries industry is farmed.

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