GM fish

The reproductive biology of fish is much simpler than that of mammals, so they are easier to genetically modify. Scientists have genetically modified about 35 different species of fish in the laboratory.

A genetically modified (GM) fluorescent zebra fish is being marketed as a pet in the USA, but currently there is no commercial production of GM fish as food. However, the company AquaBounty is seeking approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to market GM Atlantic salmon in the US. The company proposes to ship GM fish eggs from its Canadian facility to Panama, for production in an on-land facility. The fish would then be trucked to the US for sale, as well as sold in Panama. In future, it plans to also sell eggs for production elsewhere.

The GM salmon includes a growth hormone gene from Chinook salmon (native to the North Pacific) and an anti-freeze protein gene from the ocean pout (native to the North West Atlantic). As a result, the transgenic fish produces growth hormone all year (rather than just during the warmer months) and reaches maturity faster than non-GM salmon.

There are concerns about the impact of GM salmon on wild salmon should it escape into rivers or the Atlantic ocean, because it could out-compete wild salmon for food, or breed with them producing offspring that may be less fit to survive. This could have serious negative effects on declining or endangered wild salmon populations. Although the eggs AquaBounty plans to produce will be all female and treated to produce sterile adult fish, this process is only up to 95-99% effective.

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