GMO salmon vs regular salmon
© AquaBounty
The salmon are engineered to grow much faster. Both these salmon are the same age.
Environment Canada has approved the commercial production of genetically-modified salmon produced in a facility in eastern P.E.I., says the company that owns the facility in a news release.

The AquAdvantage salmon, produced by AquaBounty, are modified to grow at a much faster rate than regular salmon.

AquaBounty has created a land-based, self-contained facility for the fish in Rollo Bay. Currently, the company has permission to export GM salmon eggs from P.E.I. to a facility in Indiana to be grown out. The USDA approved the import of the eggs to the Indiana plant last month.

AquaBounty CEO Sylvia Wulf said in a news release she was pleased by the news.

"We take biosecurity and sustainability seriously, and our state-of-the-art recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) design includes multiple and redundant physical barriers to escape," said Wulf.

"With this final regulatory approval now obtained, we anticipate hiring more people from the community on Prince Edward Island to ramp up commercial production."

The company currently employs 25 people on P.E.I.

AquaBounty estimates the first commercial harvest from the plant will be in the last quarter of 2020.

'More GM salmon means more risk'

In a joint news release, four environmental groups from the Maritimes expressed concern over the approval.

"More GM salmon means more risk to wild Atlantic salmon. That is the science," said Mark Butler of the Ecology Action Centre in Nova Scotia.

"This decision is the first step in a dangerous expansion of GM fish production. We need a national consultation on improving regulation before new GM animals are approved."

The groups are particularly concerned that there is no requirement to label genetically-modified foods for consumers.

Environment Canada told CBC News that it has completed its risk assessment, but will not release it until late Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday morning.