GM fish owners 'treated like criminals'

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Fishkeepers who purchased illegal genetically modified glowing fish from an online auction site say they are being "treated like criminals" by authorities.

Fishkeepers who purchased illegal genetically modified glowing fish from an online auction site say they are being "treated like criminals" by authorities.

Biosecurity New Zealand officials and two security guards visited the home of Tristan and Carissa Clements in Cashmere, New Zealand, to cull about 20 of the illegal GM fish.

"We are victims in this", Tristan Clements told Stuff. "Biosecurity was incompetent and allowed them through customs."

Biosecurity New Zealand was told about the illegal GM fish after members of the public saw the fish advertised for sale on an Internet auction site.

According to the report, Clements purchased the fish from a shop in Christchurch, and was aware that the fish were genetically modified, but believed they had been approved for sale.

"We bought and bred the fish legally and we've done nothing wrong. We feel we've been treated harshly."

Imported as dyed fishThe fish managed to slip through because Singapore exporters claimed that the fish were dyed rather than genetically modified.

David Yard, Biosecurity New Zealand's incursion manager told Stuff that the fish were not authorised and were therefore illegal and in breach of the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act:

"The fish in question were cleared for entry at the time, due to an incorrect declaration by the importer, who believed they were dyed red, rather than genetically modified.

"The importer's belief they had been dyed was supported when the fish were examined under UV light and did not fluoresce or glow, as is typical with this type of genetic modification."

The New Zealand Herald claims that Biosecurity New Zealand has admitted it is facing an uphill struggle to find all of the GM fish, and has already destroyed 300 of the illegal fish this week.

"We do have to concede that finding and euthanising all the fish involved is going to be challenging," Yard told the Herald.

"Even so, we are attempting the most comprehensive job we can. New Zealand has laws around this and it needs to be clear that there are consequences to illegally importing, possessing and selling GM organisms."

Similar illegal genetically modified fish have been on sale in the UK in recent months.