August 9, 2017 3:59 pm

GMO salmon spurs debate, but survey finds most Canadians don’t know what GMO entails

WATCH ABOVE: Canadians are first to eat genetically modified salmon

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Genetically modified salmon is now being sold in Canada, which has some people concerned about food labelling at grocery stores.

The sale of GMO salmon was approved by Health Canada in May 2016. Five tonnes have been told in the country since then, according to a report from AquaBounty, the U.S.-based company that produces the fish.

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READ MORE: Health Canada approves sale of genetically modified salmon for human consumption

But Canadians who’ve bought the salmon, may not have known that it was designed to grow faster and bigger, while also consuming less food. Unlike many other countries, GMO food in Canada doesn’t need to be labelled when being sold.

A private-member’s bill that called for genetically modified food products to be labelled was rejected by the House of Commons in May. Bill C-291, which would have amended the Food and Drugs Act, was tabled by NDP MP Pierre Luc Dusseault.

On Wednesday, an Angus Reid survey revealed that most Canadians admit they don’t know much about genetically modified organisms, but still want more transparency.

WATCH: People gather downtown Toronto protesting genetically modified foods

Of the 1,512 respondents, 24 per cent said they had “never heard of them” or only heard the term, 60 per cent said they “know a little bit about” GMO food, while only 16 per cent were “very familiar” with what it entails.

However, 83 per cent of Canadians surveyed said at least some GMO food labelling should mandatory in grocery stores.

The report echos 2016 Health Canada findings that Canadians’ opinions on the products were defined by “confusion, misinformation, and generally low awareness/understanding.”

While consumers may not have the best understanding what GMO means, advocacy group Canadian Biotechnology Action Network is (CBAN) sounding alarms over the salmon.

READ MORE: Warm weather affects B.C. salmon stocks

“The company did not disclose where the GM salmon fillets were sold or for what purpose,” Lucy Sharratt of CBAN said in a news release Monday.

“We’re shocked to discover that they’ve entered the market at this time.”

“When it comes to GM foods, Canadian consumers are shopping blind,” Sharratt added, pressing grocery stores not to carry the fish.

Costco has decided not to sell the salmon as part of its commitment to “sustainable fisheries.”

WATCH: GMOs pose no risk to humans, environment: study

“Costco does not intend to sell genetically modified salmon,” the company states on its website.

The genetically modified salmon was approved in Canada after four years of testing.

READ MORE: Are parasitic worms lurking in your seafood? Here’s what Canadian experts say

“The Government of Canada has determined that the genetically modified AquAdvantage Salmon is as safe and nutritious for humans and livestock as conventional salmon,” it said on its website following approval.

The government agency added that while GMO labelling in Canada is voluntary, and consumers that want more information about products they purchase should directly contact the manufacturer.

The Angus Reid survey was conducted between June 8-13, 2017, by 1,512 Canadian adults. It is considered accurate  +/- 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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