GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FISH THREATEN WORLD’S OCEANS
GREENPEACE CALLS FOR GE-FREE SEAS
Boston/London/Ottawa, 27th March, 2001 – Greenpeace activists today sealed off a research facility containing genetically engineered (GE) salmon, owned by A/F Protein, in Prince Edward Island, Canada. The international environmental organisation demanded a global rejection of the world’s first application to commercially produce GE fish, and a global ban on all releases of genetically engineered organisms into the oceans.
GE fish have the potential to cause irreversible damage to wild fish stocks and to the wider marine environment. Leading marine biologists have expressed grave reservations and warned that even a small number of GE fishes released into the wild can have potentially devastating effects. Researchers at Purdue University in Indiana, the United States, estimate that 60 fertile GE fish introduced into a natural population of 60,000 could annihilate the natural stock in 20-30 years. (1)
“Deformed heads, greedy, GE fish are a danger to the environment and potentially to human health. They are an iconic example of the genetic engineering experiment that is being conducted with our environment and food supply. As fish do not obey national boundaries, any release of GE fish into the wild will be an issue of international concern and in breach of international law,” said Lindsay Keenan, Genetic Engineering Campaigner for Greenpeace.
A/F Protein’s application to commercialise GE salmon for the aquaculture industry worldwide is currently being considered by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under their regulation on ‘animal drugs’, and a ruling is expected anytime this year. The permit would set a precedent for approvals of other types of GE fish that are already being developed, including trout, catfish, lobster, carp and striped bass. The company A/F Protein claims that it already has orders for 15 million GE fish eggs for delivery as soon as the FDA gives the go-ahead.
Escapes from fish farms are frequent and virtually impossible to prevent. In the past ten years over half a million fish escaped from just a handful of facilities in the US and Canada (2). To date, there are no published studies on the health risks of engineered fish, nor are there specific regulations governing the release of GE fish into the wild.
A/F Protein has manipulated the GE Atlantic Salmon with an additional gene for growth hormone production and an anti-freeze gene promoter sequence. As a result, instead of only growing during the summer months, the GE salmon grows all year around developing two to three times faster than a normal salmon. (3)
Greenpeace delivered its warning about the GE fish to fishing and aquaculture industry representatives at the International Boston Seafood Show urging them to support the appeal for seas free from genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
"It is outrageous that the United States is about to advocate global contamination with highly hazardous transgenic fish based only on an assessment of their Food and Drug Administration and even under a completely inadequate regulation on ‘animal drugs’. As the oceans, the planet’s largest ecosystem knows no boundaries, the international community needs to immediately stop this reckless action. We call upon the citizens, governments and industry of the world to support our appeal for GMO free seas," Keenan added.
For more information: In the US: Lindsay Keenan, Genetic Engineering Campaigner, Greenpeace International, Tel: +1 202 2517884; Kimberly Wilson, GE Campaigner, Mob +14152971032; In Canada: Amy Katz, Grenpeace Canada Press Officer, Mob. +14168757055; Michael Khoo, Genetic Engineering Campaigner, Greenpeace Canada, Tel: +1 4167068408; Greenpeace International Press Office, Teresa Merilainen, Media Officer, Tel: +31205236637
Video available from Greenpeace US, Tel: +1 2023192403; Pictures available from Greenpeace International Photo Desk, Tel: +31 20 55249580; more information
Notes to the editors:
(1) The American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists (an organisation dedicated to the scientific study of fishes, amphibians and reptiles) and the Royal Society of Canada recently recommended a moratorium on rearing genetically engineered fish in aquatic facilities.
(2) December 2000, 100,000 farm-bred fish escaped from a facility in Maine in the US. Approximately 300,000 fish escaped from a single Washington State fish farm in the summer of 1999. Between 1991 and 1999 over 280,000 fish escaped from fish farms in British Columbia.
(3) The Convention for the Conservation of Salmon in the North Atlantic Ocean (NASCO) has expressed concerns about possible irreversible effects of trangenic fish in the oceans, and called upon its members, including the United States, to prevent any of such releases. It has also established guidelines for action on transgenic salmon that have been completely ignored by the US FDA so far.
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