GM GloFish available early

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In response to overwhelming demand, and media attention, US-based 5-D Tropicals and Segrest Farms have brought forward the release date for the glow-in-the-dark transgenic GloFish.

The genetically modified Zebra danios which are being marketed by Yorktown Technologies, who trademarked them as GloFish, were originally due to go on sale across America on January 5, 2004.

The distributors, 5-D Tropicals and Segrest Farms, say that the demand has been unprecedented: "We have been in the ornamental fish business for forty-three years, and we've never seen interest like this".

Yorktown Technologies has a deal with the National University of Singapore, who originally developed the fish, and is providing a royalty payment from each fish to help fund further research in transgenic fishes. Ironically, the University is unable to sell the GM fish it produces within Singapore.

Yorktown Technologies' GloFish website contains a number of letters from scientists who claim that the GM fish pose little threat to the environment, and the US Food and Drug Administration this week said it would not be restricting their sale.

However, many fishkeepers and trade organisations, including the Ornamental Aquatic Trade Association (OATA) strongly oppose the sale of transgenic pets, calling them "an unwelcome addition to the marketplace."

In a statement on the GM fish, OATA says: "Many varieties of fish, which have been favourites with the trade and public, have been developed by selective breeding over the years, so does the industry or hobby want or need GM fish?

" The beauty of the range of species available to the industry and thus the hobby renders the application of this technology in our industry, to produce gimmicky fish, entirely unnecessary.

The use of GM technology may be viewed by some as benign. However, OATA believes that it is perhaps more important to look where this issue may take the industry rather than where we are now."