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.
"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. 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.
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.