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6-Regulation: California (USA) sets rules for GE fish

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TITLE:  Rules set for bioengineered fish
SOURCE: Associated Press/The Modesto Bee, USA, by Don Thompson
DATE:   Feb 9, 2003

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Rules set for bioengineered fish

SACRAMENTO California regulators on Friday adopted rules that could allow
production of geneticall engineered fish, though there are no plans for
such fish farms in the state.

The decision by the Fish and Game Commission came over the objections of
state senators who warned the regulations "effectively legalize
commercialization of transgenic fish species in California."

The decision follows the commission's rejection last year of a proposal
to make California the first state to formally prohibit fish farmers from
introducing genetically altered fish into public waterways.

Commissioners and the Department of Fish and Game decided it is better to
regulate the fish to ensure none escapes into waterways where they could
potentially influence native species. The regulations create standards
for confining the fish and for securing buildings where the fish might be

The state is dealing in hypotheticals, since no one has proposed raising
the fish in California -- still, it is smart to get ahead of rapidly
advancing technology, said Ed Pert, the department's fisheries programs chief.

"I know people are thinking, 'Oh, you're permitting this now, everybody
and their brother is going to be doing this,' but that's not the case,"
Pert said.

State Sens. Byron Sher, D-Stanford, and Wesley Chesbro D-Arcata, said
they fear the state could soon see permit requests if the U.S. Food and
Drug Administration approves an application by Waltham, Mass.-based Aqua
Bounty Farms Inc. to produce genetically modified Atlantic salmon for
human consumption.

However, an FDA decision is still a year or more away and the company has
said it has no plans to raise the fish in California.

Biotech fish grow faster and fatter than natural fish. Fish that escape
from West Coast fish farms could potentially compete with or crossbreed
with protected wild Pacific salmon, the senators said in asking for a
delay in adoption of the standards.

California should ban the fish, not issue permits for them as allowed in
the regulations, the senators said.