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CONTAMINATION & ANIMALS: Biosecurity officers seize 300 GM fish in Christchurch




                                  PART 1


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TITLE:  BIOSECURITY OFFICERS SEIZE 300 GM FISH IN CHRISTCHURCH

SOURCE: The Press, New Zealand

AUTHOR: New Zealand Press Agency, New Zealand

URL:    http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/thepress/4133390a6530.html

DATE:   19.07.2007

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BIOSECURITY OFFICERS SEIZE 300 GM FISH IN CHRISTCHURCH

Biosecurity New Zealand is urging tropical fish collectors and breeders to help trace genetically modified fish that have been imported illegally.

Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) officers seized and destroyed 300 tropical fish in raids on two Christchurch pet shops and two private premises in Christchurch yesterday.

Biosecurity NZ incursion manager David Yard said the operation involved seizing and humanely euthanasing the fish after tests done in Britain confirmed they had been genetically modified with a red fluorescent protein to make them a bright red/pink colour.

Biosecurity was alerted ”several weeks ago” by concerned members of the public who noticed the zebra danio fish, a breed popular with ornamental fish enthusiasts, for sale on the internet.

Yard said the MAF Quarantine Service had unwittingly allowed them into the country under the false impression they were dyed -- an apparently accepted practice among collectors of tropical fish.

He said the fish posed an ”extremely low risk in biosecurity terms” as they were unlikely to enter the food chain or cause any environmental impacts.

”They are tropical, so are unlikely to be able to survive outside a temperature-controlled tank,” he said.

”The presence of these fish in New Zealand has not, however, been authorised and they are illegal new organisms in breach of the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act.”

Biosecurity was now tracing fish that had been sold or bred and wanted anyone who had bright red/pink coloured danios, or knew people who kept them, to contact Biosecurity on the freephone 0800 809966.

Arrangements would be made to collect and euthanase the fish.

It was thought the fish were either part of, or bred from, a consignment of about 400 red danio that was imported from Singapore in January this year and cleared by the Quarantine Service.

”The fish in question were cleared for entry at the time, due to an incorrect declaration by the importer who believed they were dyed red, rather than genetically modified,” Yard said.

”The importer’s belief they had been dyed was supported when the fish were examined under ultraviolet light and did not fluoresce or glow as is typical with this type of genetic modification.”

Yard told NZPA the investigation was ”at an early stage” and Biosecurity was trying to work out where the Christchurch people had obtained their supplies.

The original consignment hadn’t been imported into Christchurch directly, he said.

”Unfortunately we’re having to track from the bottom of the distribution chain upwards,” he said.

”We believe we know who the importer was, but we’re still trying to track everybody in between so, as much as possible, we can trace all affected fish.”

Yard said people keeping tropical fish should be aware that the importation, possession or sale of genetically modified organisms was illegal in New Zealand.

He conceded it was a ”challenging” task for Biosecurity to find and destroy all the fish involved in the illegal importation.

”We need the support of the wider acquarium and fish breeding community to trace these fish,” he said.

Yard urged anyone who had zebra danio or knew of collectors who had them to contact Biosecurity.

”It is quite a close-knit community and unless people decide to hide them away, then hopefully we should be able to get as many as we can.”

He said it was important the fish were dealt with by Biosecurity and destroyed humanely.

Yard said the Christchurch people whose premises were raided yesterday were ”largely co-operative” with some understandable initial resistance.

”But we have secured the co-operation of these people and we achieved what we wanted.”



                                  PART 2

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TITLE:  MAF BIOSECURITY NEW ZEALAND ACTS ON GM AQUARIUM FISH IN NEW ZEALAND

SOURCE: Biosecurity New Zealand, New Zealand

AUTHOR: Press Release

URL:    http://www.biosecurity.govt.nz/media/19-07-07/gm-fish

DATE:   19.07.2007

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MAF BIOSECURITY NEW ZEALAND ACTS ON GM AQUARIUM FISH IN NEW ZEALAND

MAF Biosecurity New Zealand (MAFBNZ) yesterday entered four Christchurch premises in response to information that people at those addresses were breeding and/or selling genetically modified aquarium fish.

The fish, genetically modified Zebra danio (Danio rerio), were brought to MAFBNZ’s attention by concerned members of the public who had seen them for sale online.

MAFBNZ Incursion Manager David Yard says the operation involved seizing and humanely euthanasing approximately 300 tropical aquarium fish that genetic testing confirmed had been genetically modified with a red fluorescent protein to make them a bright red/pink colour.

Mr Yard says the fish, including any that may have been on-sold, pose an extremely low risk in biosecurity terms as they are unlikely to enter the food chain or have any environmental impacts. ”They are tropical so are unlikely to be able to survive outside a temperature-controlled tank.

”The presence of these fish in New Zealand has not, however, been authorised and they are illegal new organisms in breach of the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act,” he says.

”Our work now is focused on tracing any fish that have been sold. To this end, we’d like to encourage tropical fish enthusiasts who have bright red/pink coloured danios in their possession, or knows someone who has these fish, to contact MAFBNZ on the freephone 0800 80 99 66. Arrangements will be made for the fish to be collected and put down.”

While the fish pose no environmental risk, Mr Yard says it is important they are dealt with by MAFBNZ and humanely destroyed. ”At the very least, fish should be disposed of into land-based bins and not in a manner where they could get into waterways.”

It’s thought the fish are either part of, or bred from, a consignment of red danio fish that were imported from Singapore earlier this year and cleared by the then MAF Quarantine Service.

”The fish in question were cleared for entry at the time, due to an incorrect declaration by the importer who believed they were dyed red, rather than genetically modified. The importer’s belief they had been dyed was supported when the fish were examined under UV light and did not fluoresce or glow as is typical with this type of genetic modification.”

David Yard says it’s important that people keeping tropical fish are aware that the importation, possession or sale of genetically modified organisms is illegal in New Zealand.


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