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Stricter Controls Still Leave Wild Salmon At Risk

The Green Party said today that stricter controls on a genetically
engineered salmon experiment have failed to provide the wild salmon
population with enough of a safety net.

"The stricter controls imposed by the Environmental Risk Management
Authority (ERMA) on the research by NZ King Salmon have brought the
containment standards up to the level required under the Hazardous
Substances and New Organisms Act, and of course I see that as an
improvement," said Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons.

"But there is an important point everyone is missing - this research near
Blenheim is of no use unless it can lead to commercial growing of salmon in
sea cages, and salmon in sea cages escape," she said. "While there are few
New Zealand studies about this, one overseas study has found that a quarter
of all `wild' salmon from one river in Norway came from salmon farms.

"I challenge King Salmon to declare that none of its non-genetically
engineered sea-caged salmon in the Marlborough Sounds have escaped. It
would contradict what we have been told by local fishermen, company staff
and by Conservation Department officers."

In a recent study by Purdue University (Indiana, United States) researchers
found that a 0.1 per cent intrusion of transgenic fish into a wild stock
could bring that population to extinction within 40 generations where the
gene reduces the offspring's ability to survive. They have dubbed this
decimation theory the "Trojan gene hypothesis", on the grounds that the gene
gets into the population looking like something good but ends up destroying
the population.*

"Uncontrollable incidents such as a hole being torn in the mesh or more
importantly in respect to King Salmon's Kaituna Hatchery near Blenheim -
flooding - could also potentially result in eggs escaping from research
tanks into the wild. To date there has been little monitoring of conditions
set by ERMA and we have seen nothing to reassure us that the integrity of
the new screens will be regularly checked."

Nelson-based King Salmon conceded last year that a small percentage of the
genetically engineered fish had been spawned with large, bumpy heads at its
Blenheim research facility.

* Published in New Scientist December 1999.


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