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Govt Funding Toad Genes For Salmon - Greens

1999-2000 funded GE projects include toad DNA in salmon, Greens say

The Government's Public Good Science Fund has given $142,000 in the 1999-2000 funding year to allow Canterbury University to create mutant salmon, including some with toad genes.

Green Party Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons, who issued details of the funding today, said because the work was so advanced, salmon with toad genes in them could soon be seen in large South Island fish-tanks.

She said the university scientist involved, Professor Frank Sin, had previously denied his research included such genes.

"But the latest details of taxpayer-funded science shows there is no doubt he is using genes from the African clawed toad to make salmon resistant to bacteria. It also says that the `new salmon stock will be made available for the fish farmers for field trials' This is likely to be for New Zealand King Salmon, which has hatcheries in Marlborough, Golden Bay and Canterbury, and has already admitted a link with the Canterbury research.

"Salmon are migratory fish and I am deeply concerned that this work will eventually transfer gene pollution to the oceans," Ms Fitzsimons said. "It will mean no corner of the world will be free of it.

"There are ethical questions about crossing two non-related animals in this way, plus an issue of human health. The toad or frog DNA selected in this type of experiment produces natural antibiotics. No-one knows how these will affect people who eat the salmon."

The Environmental Risk Management Authority has this year questioned some of King Salmon's practices, and is reviewing them, saying in a press statement on August 13 about the firm's hatchery at Kaituna, near Blenheim: "In the case of this facility it appeared that there could be an issue about the adequacy of the controls put on the original approval."

A subcommittee of ERMA said on August 4, "It is not clear whether the existing controls are sufficient to ensure that viable fish, eggs or sperm cannot escape from the trial site..."

Ms Fitzsimons said genetically engineered salmon funding is part of $15-20 million of new government money which has gone into genetic engineering for 1999-2000, details of which have just been made public by her.

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