GM salmon could be on our plates in two years


US scientists have developed a genetically modified salmon which grows at twice the normal rate and are hoping that it will be the first ever GM animal to be seen on our plates.

By implanting genetic material from the Chinook salmon (pictured above) and the ocean pout, the scientists from the Massachusetts based company AquaBounty have created a GM fish that eats all year round rather than just in spring and summer and grows to full size in just 18 months instead of the normal three years. Newspapers have nicknamed the fish ‘Frankenfish’.

To ensure that the 'super salmon' do not interbreed with wild salmon the GM salmon - named 'AquAdvantage' are only female and are also sterile.

The company hope that they will be an efficient and safe way to produce salmon in inland fish farms, so that the wild fish can be left in the oceans.

US watchdog the Food and Drug Administration is currently considering whether the GM Atlantic salmon, but if they give the fish the go-ahead, they could be on US supermarket shelves within two to three years.

Aquaculture is already a business worth over £55 billion worldwide and over half of the fish consumed globally is raised on fish farms. British scientists have also been working on genetically modified versions of tilapia fish and edible carp.

But Lord Melchett, policy director at the Soil Association, said the new technology is not worth the risk.

"Once you have bombarded an animal with other genes, the DNA is unstable, and there is no guarantee these fish remain sterile. It poses far too great a risk to wild salmon. A fish that grows that quickly is likely to lose some of its environmental benefits. There is no such thing as a free salmon lunch and we will pay the price," he said.

A Purdue University study using a computer model, which has been widely criticised by the biotechnology industry, showed that if 60 transgenic fish bred in a population of 60,000 wild fish, the wild fish would be extinct in 40 generations.

In addition a Canadian study on GM trout found found that while they grew faster and were many times larger than the wild species, they were likely to die before maturity and a number developed deformed heads and bloated bodies.

On the GM aquarium fish front, Practical Fishkeeping recently reported a story on fluorescent cichlids which have been genetically modified for the aquarium market.