Friday, September 13, 2002

Science summarizes recent developments in GE fish, spurred on by the NRC report. More on fish-farming here.
The safest approach to transgenic aquaculture, of course, would be to raise the fish in tanks on land. But the added cost--an increase of about 40%--would make it difficult for producers to compete with conventional marine salmon farmed off, say, Chile or Tasmania. So in its proposal to FDA, Aqua Bounty suggests a compromise: raising fertile broodstock in secure facilities on land and sending only sterilized fish to sea pens for rearing.

Opponents say the plan is still too risky. Aqua Bounty sterilizes eggs in pressure chambers, a process that adds an extra set of chromosomes, and says it achieves 100% effectiveness. But that's in lab conditions with only thousands of eggs, treated by experienced operators. Muir and others suspect that at the industrial scale, some eggs would be bound to become fertile females. Practically speaking, "there isn't anything such as 100% sterility," says Sue Scott of the Atlantic Salmon Federation in St. Andrews, New Brunswick, Canada. What's necessary, argues Anne Kapuscinski of the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, is to have multiple barriers, such as sterility plus confinement on land.

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