Aquabounty’s AquAdvantage Salmon has been approved for sale in Canada

Between April and June of 2017, approximately 4.5 metric tonnes of genetically modified salmon were imported into Canada and most likely sold in Quebec, according to the National Observer. This salmon is not labelled as a genetically modified organism (GMO), nor does it legally have to be.

The GMO Atlantic salmon, created by AquaBounty Technologies, was approved for sale in Canada by Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency in 2015 for food and livestock feed, first in the U.S. and then in Canada. To create the fish, AquaBounty introduced a growth hormone gene from the Chinook salmon and a gene from the ocean pout into Atlantic salmon to ensure it could grow quickly all year round. The company was required to submit information to Health Canada outlining how the product was developed, its potential for new toxins, its potential for causing allergies, and its chemical safety. Health Canada scientists then reviewed this information. The Government of Canada determined that the genetically modified salmon created by this biotech company is “as safe and nutritious for humans and livestock as conventional salmon,” and said that the salmon does not have to be labelled for consumers as genetically engineered.

Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency oversee food labelling in Canada under the Food and Drugs Act. These government departments require the identification and labelling of foods only when they determine that there is a significant health risk or a change in nutritional standards, such as the presence of an allergen. They provide guidance to manufacturers who create GMO foods for sale in Canada, but they do not require the labelling of genetically modified foods. The Standards Council of Canada — a federal Crown corporation that reports to Parliament — has asked AquaBounty to decide whether they would like to voluntarily label their GMO salmon. Health Canada says that if consumers want to know whether they are eating genetically engineered fish, they should contact the manufacturer directly.

The process of creating GMO salmon creates significant greenhouse gas emissions. GMO Atlantic salmon eggs are first created in a facility in Prince Edward Island, then shipped to Panama to grow into adult fish, and finally shipped back to Canada and the U.S. for sale. The hatchery in Rollo Bay West, PEI, that engineers these eggs is currently expanding their operation of GMO salmon to produce 250 metric tonnes of GMO Atlantic salmon per year according to a report by the CBC in June 2017.

Aquaculture — the harvesting of fish in a controlled environment — “crops” are often selected based on consumer demand rather than sustainability. According to a U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory committee, the worldwide demand for fish protein has increased significantly and overfishing has contributed to the decline of the Atlantic salmon and its addition to the endangered species list. AquaBounty is marketing its GMO fish as a “faster-growing salmon,” arguing that faster-growing fish will satisfy the global demand for animal protein and help reduce pressure on wild fish stocks.

Why doesn’t Karma sell AquaBounty salmon if the government has determined it is safe for consumption?

In October 2002, Karma created a Product Policy to help staff and members source products with environmental, political, economic, nutrition, health, and ethical considerations. At its core, the Product Policy identifies, evaluates, and takes action concerning products that could have a destructive impact on our natural environment and on animal welfare, among others. As such, the Product Policy condemns the genetic modification of plants and animals, citing both environmental and ethical considerations.

What are some of the environmental or health concerns surrounding AquaBounty GMO salmon?

  • Food pellets for farmed salmon require large amounts of smaller fish, harvested from the wild, that may otherwise be used as a human food staple. Although the  AquaBounty website claims that its faster-growing fish creates shorter production cycles resulting in more efficient use of feed, using wild fish to create food pellets for farmed fish still contributes to the decimation of wild fish stocks worldwide.
  • AquaBounty considers the risk for escape of their salmon to be low and states that their GMO salmon are sterile. There is, however, up to a 2 percent error rate with the process used to sterilize the salmon, so it is not a guarantee that all of the GMO salmon will not escape and breed with wild salmon.
  • The levels of growth hormone found in the AquAdvantage fish were not detectable based on tests performed by AquaBounty. However, more sensitive tests were available — they were just not used by the company.

The FIC welcomes any questions or thoughts about food issues that may affect our environment or our health and wellness.  Our email address is foodissues@karmacoop.org .  For more information about Karma Coop’s product policy please visit http://karmacoop.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/ProductPolicyOctober2002.pdf.

By Cindy Willems, Anna Cairns, and Danielle Waters on behalf of the Food Issues Committee

Karma’s best practices for reducing food waste

Karma members have a yearning to enjoy food at the height of its quality. Karma members also feel a deep sense of responsibility for the impact of our food consumption on the environment and society. One aspect of this is to ensure that food is enjoyed as much as possible and not wasted. Canada wastes $31 billion worth of food annually [Toronto Food Policy Council], so the cooperative takes this responsibility seriously and is committed to maintaining quality while reducing food waste. Karma endeavors to reduce waste at three stages of the value chain:

At home

Approximately 47% of food waste in Canada is produced in consumers’ homes [Toronto Food Policy Council]. To help avoid surplus food that ends up being wasted, Karma is committed to offering many food items in bulk, allowing shoppers to buy the amount they need and not more.

In store

Karma routinely checks products and produce nearing the end of their shelf life early enough to divert them. Prices are reduced before the expiry date for certain foods, including bread and prepared food, to sell them quickly, and damaged produce is placed in the half-price bin. Each week, the equivalent of two big banana boxes full of unsellable but still edible items are donated to the kitchens of Fort York Food Bank and Christie Ossington Neighbourhood Centre to support the 850,000 Canadians who use food banks each month [Food Banks Canada]. Every day at the store, organic scrap gets carefully separated from recyclables and garbage, to allow efficient processing of each type of waste. Most unsalvageable food is composted in the City of Toronto composting program, which returns nutrients to the soil, reduces methane emissions, and stimulates carbon sequestration. These are other important and harmful aspects of food waste. Worldwide, “the carbon footprint of food produced and not eaten is estimated to 3.3 Gtonnes of CO2 equivalent: as such, food wastage ranks as the third top emitter after USA and China” [Food and Agriculture Organisation]. Furthermore, some of Karma’s organic waste is collected by farmers to be used as animal feed. Finally, part of the organic waste — about 50 litres a week — also goes to the booming worm population in Karma’s dedicated compost binto be transformed into valuable soil amendment and plant tonic.

At the suppliers

Among other benefits, Karma’s priority to local suppliers means food travels shorter distances, and less food is spoiled during transportation. Karma’s quality standards are based on nutrients rather than aesthetic aspects, so fewer shabby vegetables get discarded and wasted for that reason. Karma’s buying practices do not involve signing many contracts with volume commitments and thus avoid encouraging big inventories at both Karma and its suppliers, which are associated with greater food waste. Karma has close links with four farmers, which allows them to come and offer items left over after a market.

It would be extremely difficult to quantify the positive impact of these efforts on human and animal life and the environment. They show us how Karma achieves the sense of community that its members are so proud of and committed to. Yet, they are only part of the larger contribution of members to reduce, at home and everywhere possible, the food wasted in Canada each year.

 

Nathalie Rémond, on behalf of the Food Issues Committee

From the GM — August 2017

Dear Karma Members,

We hope you are enjoying the summer! As people are enjoying vacations and cottages, things tend to slow down here at the store and we experience our usual summer sales slump. That said, we still have lots of exciting things happening around the store for those of you who are staycationing and enjoying the Toronto summer!

We have some great workshops this month, including a repeat of last month’s DIY Sunscreen (back by popular demand) and How to Home Brew! Also, the growing is in full swing, so we are fully stocked with the freshest local produce of the season.

Enjoy!
Yours co-operatively,

Talia McGuire
General Manager
Karma Co-op
manager@karmacoop.org

Karma Co-op Building Committee Report

If you haven’t been in the Karma office this year you might not have noticed the changes that have taken place. Have a look the next time you are in the store!

After Talia and the staff did a great job rearranging the desks and shelving, a group of members had a few work sessions to cut down some desks and paint some shelves and walls. The old electric baseboard in the office, which was no longer functioning, was replaced with a smaller unit by an electrician.

If you are shopping at night, you probably noticed the new LED motion-detector light beside the entrance and the new string of LED lights mounted on the fence.

In the washroom, the doorknob was replaced with a lever handle. The taps and cracked sink were replaced, the surface-mounted hot water supply was hidden in the wall, and the drywall was repaired.

Karma members also built a new roof on the outside shed, trimmed branches that were overhanging the roof of the store, and installed additional weather stripping on the front door.

The annual oiling of the reclaimed-wood exterior doors with Penofin Verde was also done back in the fall.

Thank you to all the members who participated in these projects to help keep Karma beautiful!

If you have any ideas for projects that need to be done around Karma please contact the Building Committee. Everyone is welcome to help out with and/or coordinate any of the projects — please contact building@karmacoop.org.

Thanks,
Cathy Tafler
Chair, Building Committee

A warm winter community

Methods of interaction, and communities, change over time. I spoke to one Karma member who remembers when bags of food were bought in bulk by a collective, then divided among the members. I used to live in a farming community where we would buy in bulk what we didn’t grow ourselves, and then we would get together to divide the shipm ent. It was a time for fellowship and fun.
My, how far we have come. Now we hire consultants to design produce displays to appeal to shoppers, and anything you might want to know is on the Internet. That’s why I gravitated to the Social Events Committee: it promotes the familiar environment in which neighbours come together as a community to talk and share.
January tends to be a cold month in the Northern Hemisphere of our dear planet, Mother Earth, so we held a slow-simmering soup-tasting event. We set up a table with a pot of Stefani’s famous home-made soup and biscuits, with ingredients from Karma. Yes, Tomislav was on the accordion, and I was on the guitar; we played some tunes, but it was the chance to interact and chat with people as they came in that made my day. Eat your heart out, Clint Eastwood.
If we at Karma only wanted mindless shopping, we’d be at No Frills adding to Galen Weston’s billions. When one considers the building blocks of community — whether a shared vision, a desire to live responsibly, a goal to leave as small an environmental footprint as possible, a commitment to financially supporting those who have committed themselves to sustainable interaction
— it is not merely a lifestyle.
In February, we held our Valentine’s Day Chocolate Fondue Event. Leftover vegan chocolate Santa Clauses were melted down (recycled; good), in that now world-famous, multi-purpose crock-pot, with chunks of fruit and vegan marshmallows dipped into the sweetness. Yet another excuse to slow down, interact, and share thoughts about current events. There’s no shortage of those lately; to the point where some people have stopped listening to the news. But that’s OK. We get the real news talking to Karma members. If they didn’t care, they wouldn’t be here.
Free monthly events are held on select Saturdays from 11 AM to 3 PM.
  • March 18: Book and Yarn Exchange
  • April 29: Spring Wellness Fair
  • May 27: Plant Exchange

by Tom Smarda

Read more articles from the spring 2017 issue of Karma’s printed newsletter, The Chronicle.