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5-Animals: University of Minnesota and Thailand cooperate in GE fish risk assessment

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-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  Impact of genetically engineered fish subject of U of Minnesota
SOURCE: University of Minnesota, USA
DATE:   November 1, 2001

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Impact of genetically engineered fish subject of U of Minnesota study

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL--Building the capacity of scientists, regulators and 
environmental leaders in Thailand to evaluate and regulate the 
environmental safety of genetically engineered organisms is the goal of a 
four-year, $425,000 grant from the U.S. Agency for International 
Development (AID) to the Institute for Social, Economic, and Ecological 
Sustainability (ISEES) at the University of Miinnesota.

The AID grant will support the first scientific research on the effects of 
introducing tilapia--a fish that is a major food source in the region--that 
has been genetically engineered for growth enhancement. The work will 
evaulate the potential safety or risk to biodiversity from the introduction 
of the tilapia, large numbers of which are raised in fish farms in the 
United States and around the world.

According to ISEES Director Anne Kapuscinski, a professor of fisheries and 
conservation biology and principal investigator for the grant, the Thai 
government has discouraged several requests to introduce such fish partly 
on account of the absence of case-specific risk assessment data and 
insufficient capability to assess and control genetically modified 
organisms. Tilapia are not native to Thailand, but some have escaped into 
natural rivers and wetlands and established feral populations.

The project will measure the likelihood that genetic material will flow 
from the introduced genetically modified tilapia to the existing feral 
populations of the fish. The impact of the introduction on other fish 
populations will also be evaluated. Another project goal is to help 
officials in Thailand and neighboring countries increase their skills in 
science-based risk assessment and safety planning and management of 
genetically engineered organisms.

"The ISEES program on governance of biotechnology has attracted domestic 
and international interest," said Kapuscinski. "This AID grant will enhance 
the international dimension of our biosafety research, graduate training 
and outreach. Also, we expect the project to enhance Thailand's role as a 
regional biotechnology and biosafety leader with the capacity to share 
scientific and regulatory expertise and information with other nations.


Contacts: Anne Kapuscinski, +1-612-624-7723,
Deane Morrison, University News Service, +1-612-624-2346,


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