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EU Says No to Gene Engineered
Fish & Animals

http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99992748

GM fish farming 'too risky'
16:48 03 September 02
Andy Coghlan
NewScientist.com news service

Genetically-modified fish should not be farmed in pens set in rivers or the
sea, say top scientific advisers to the UK government.

The fish might escape into the environment with unforeseeable consequences,
warns the Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission in a new
report on cloned and GM animals.

"Once the fish has escaped, there's virtually nothing that can be done to
recall it," says commission chairman, Malcolm Grant. He says the
commission's report is aimed at pre-empting in GM animals the public
relations disaster that has effectively killed off Europe's interest in GM
foods.

"Genetic biotechnology has opened a new chapter in the relationship between
man and animals," says Grant. "We must therefore prepare now for
developments that may be many years away."

"Objectionable changes"

He estimates that food from elite GM animals will not be available for a
decade, but GM fish could be with us in half that time.

Aqua Bounty Farms, a Massachusetts company developing GM salmon on Prince
Edward Island, is awaiting a licence to sell the fish in the US. "On the
current state of play, we think it's better to say no now," says commission
member Anna Bradley on the issue of offshore and river-based GM fish farms.

The report also says that the law should be changed to "protect" animals
from "some potential fundamentally objectionable changes to their natures"
These might include, for example, altering domestic cats so that they no
longer want to hunt.

Another example might be the production of farm animals with abnormally low
sentience "to increase those animals' ability to withstand a stressful
management regime".

Pet cloning

And the report backs an earlier decision by the government's Animal
Procedures Committee - which regulates animal experiments - not to grant
licences for "trivial objectives, such as the creation or duplication of
favourite pets, or of animals intended as toys".

Grant argues that pet cloning is "trivial, distasteful and could be sold to
gullible owners".

To keep a watch on developments and advise government when to introduce new
regulations on GM and cloned animals, a new "strategic advisory body" should
be created, says the commission.

Serious implications

Ethicists and medical and veterinary scientist generally welcomed the
report. The prominent reproductive scientist Lord Robert Winston says the
recommendations on farmed animals and fish are sensible and appropriate.

"But it really is vital that regulation does not become more restrictive for
GM animals for medical research," he says. "In the US where animal care is
just as compassionate and properly conducted but where it takes a few weeks
to get approval for work rather than a year."

Winston fears a strategic advisory body could delay the licensing machinery
even more, which would have "the most serious implications for British
science".

 

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