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Applications for modified animals debated

OTTAWA, Feb. 25 (UPI) -- The Canadian government is considering requests to allow genetically modified fish and pigs, but the public may never hear of their decision, critics say.

Groups have applied for permission to produce fish that grow twice as fast as normal, and pigs with mice DNA spliced into them, but Health Canada says it cannot publicly acknowledge the requests, Quebecor Media Inc. reported Friday.

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"For confidentiality reasons, Health Canada cannot confirm whether or not a submission has been filed or any other information related to a submission," Jenny Van Alstyne, spokeswoman for Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq, said.

AquaBounty, a firm with Canadian and U.S. operations, says it is working on developing genetically modified salmon, trout and tilapia, which will grow faster than traditional fish.

The application for a genetically modified pig comes from the University of Guelph in Ontario, where researchers spliced DNA from mice into Yorkshire pigs to reduce the amount of phosphorous in the pigs' manure.

The researchers say the reduced phosphorous could mean less pollution in rivers and streams near large-scale pig farms.

Opponents of genetic modification say that under current regulations, there would be no requirement to tell the public the animals they are eating are anything other than a regular fish or pigs.

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"Consumers have a right to know what they are eating," said Parliament Member Alex Atamanenko of the opposition New Democratic Party agriculture and a food security critic.

"I think it would be a travesty if the government would allow this to happen without letting consumers know what they are eating."

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