GENTECH archive 8.96-97

[Index][Thread]

Fwd: Transgenic Fish




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Forwarded message:
From:	jtoth@fairfield.com (Joe Toth)
Reply-to:	Ban-GEF@lists.txinfinet.com
To:	Ban-GEF@lists.txinfinet.com (Ban-GEF)
Date: 97-04-20 18:48:09 EDT


* "Transgenics need twice to three times as much food"
* "concern that the salmon will pass on their
  "enhanced" man-made gene sequences to wild fish 
  if they ever get loose.
* "possibility that the altered fish, with their huge appetites 
  might out-eat wild stocks."
* "has found in lab trials that the
  trasgenic fish out-compete wild fish for food."
* "Once they get loose in there is no way to get them back"
* "We are unable to predict the impacts at this stage," says Bob Devlin 
* "Several thousand fish - hundreds of each new line - are in 
  holding tanks in the West Vancouver [Canada] lab"
* "Devlin continues to breed the fish by the hundreds"


--START COPY--
The Vancouver Sun
Tuesday, March 3rd, 1997 
by Margaret Munro Sun
Science Reporter 

While worldwide controversy rages over the recent cloning of a Scottish
sheep,
thousands of genetically engineered salmon that grow many times faster than
normal fish are
swimming around holding tanks in West Vancouver. "They're not cloned, but
they contain cloned
genes," says researcher Bob Devlin. "We've added new genes that never existed
in the species
before." The federal government encouraged Devlin and his team of gentic
wizards at the
fisheries lab to create the "transgenic" fish which could prove a boon to
fish farmers. Now it
must decide if the creatures should ever be allowed out of the lab. "There
are a lot of
regulatory issues that nned to be addressed," says Devlin, before listing the
problems his
souped up fish might create. Chief among them is concern that the salmon will
pass on their
"enhanced" man-made gene sequences to wild fish if they ever get loose.
There's also a
possibilty, he says, that the altered fish, with their huge appetites might
out-eat wild stocks.
Devlin's fish are not quite the scientific spectacle as the cloned sheep. But
they pose a more
pressing problem for Canadian policy makers because Canadian researchers are
already producing
them by the thousands. By contrast, Dolly is one of a kind. She was created
by a cloning
technique that is so temperamental the scientists took 277 tries to get one
lamb. "We certainly
see big potential for the technology," says Dr. Garth Fletcher, a
Newfoundland geneticist who
also engineers enhanced salmon and has formed the world's first transgenic
fish company.
Fletcher has joined forces with a Boston investor and created A/F Protein
Inc., which is
breeding fast-growing Atlantic salmon in fish-rearing facilities in
Newfoundland and Prince
Edward Island. The company has recently licensed the use of its enhanced
salmon to fish breeders
in Scotland and New Zealand to develop in their labs. Like Devlin's
creations, Fletcher's salmon
have had their genetic hardware supplemented with man-made gene sequences
that speed up growth
by five to 10 times. A/F Protein is also trying to insert "anti-freeze" genes
from flounder into
salmon to make them more cold tolerant. "There is no question in my mind that
recombinant DNA
technology will be the way of the future in medicine, agriculture [and]
aquiculture in the next
century," says Fletcher, who is keen to work with Devlin and his fish in a
collaborative
venture. Canadians are leaders in the field of transgenic fish, Fletcher
says, and he'd like the
west coast and east coast salmon engineerers to work together "to take
maximum advantage of
thetechnology." "The federal government appears to be afraid of the public
perception of the
technology," says Fletcher, adding that he's made it well known to the
federal government that
his company would like to licence Devlin's fish-engineering techniques. He
says the lack of
policy is inhibiting both research and development of the technology which it
helped create.
Devlin says the federal government has filed a patent application on his
techniques and is now
trying to decide whether the government should enter into joint ventures with
industry with the
aim of exploiting the fish. The other option, says Devlin, is to pull back
and restrict the
effort to evaluating and regulating use of the fish. Meantime, Devlin
continues to breed the
fish by the hundreds in a facility in West Vancouver and is using his
experience to help the
federal government devise regulations to control the fishes' use. It's
unlikely the altered fish
would survive long in the environment, since tey do not swim as well as wild
fish, Devlin says.
But he adds there is a possibilty genetically reprogrammed fish with their
voracious appetites
might thrive in some ares, reproduce and start out-competing wild fish. "We
are unable to
predict the impacts at this stage," says Devlin, whose team has found in lab
trials that the
trasgenic fish out-compete wild fish for food. He doesn't expect to see
transgenic fish allowed
into sea pens soon since they are sure to escape, like farmed Atlantic salmon
now swimming up
west coast rivers. "If we grow them in net pens we can assume that fish will
eventually escape,"
says Devlin. It's more likely that genetically engineered fish will be
allowed only in and-based
facilities, says Devlin, who is pushing for complete biological containment
of the fish through
sterilization. The most promising technique involves pressure-shocking fish
eggs. It's
100-per-cent effective at sterilizing fish in the lab but has proved only
99-per-cent effective
in large trials. "It's good but it's not perfect," says Devlin, stressing the
need to be extra
cautious with the fish. "Once they get loose in there is no way to get them
back." Devlin and
Fletcher have been working on the forefront of fish genetics for years.
Umlike the cloned
Scottish sheep created by fusing genes from a mature cell into an egg that
had its genes
removed, the fish have normal genes plus the ones the scientists added. The
unique gene
sequences, which are stitched together using genes extracted from other
salmon, contain genes
that stimulate the production of growth hormone. They're injected into fish
eggs with a tiny
pipette. The transgenic fish have different growth rates depending on where
the inserted genes
land. When the eggs grow into a fish the scientists like, they can generate
thousands of similar
fish by harvesting sperm and eggs from the fish. The transgenic fish pass on
the new genes to
their offspring. A few years ago, Devlin's team engineered several varieties
of salmon taht grew
10 times faster than normal. The extraordinary growth led to abnormalities in
some of the fish,
such as excess cartilage in the head area. "It was clear we needed to back
off with the growth
stimulation," says Devlin. The researchers have now created 20 new genetic
lines of salmon,
which Devlin says should only grow five to seven times faster than usual and
look normal.
Several thousand fish - hundreds of each new line - are in holding tanks in
the West Vancouver
lab, weighing about a kilogram each . "They're doing very well," says Devlin,
adding that he
expects to see the one-year-old fish mature this fall, two to three years
earlier than
non-transgenic fish would take. Both Fletcher and Devlin stress it will
likely be years before
any transgenic fish will make it to the dinner table. Desirable fish must be
selected and field
tested, food and health regulations met and environmental regulations put in
place. While the
transgenic fish have spectacular growth rates, Devlion doesn;t think he and
his colleagues are
necessarily improving on nature. "A great-looking fish in the lab might have
all sorts of
problems in the field," says Devlin, who notes some of the altered salmon
have problems
swimming. He also says it's unlikely their huge appetites could be satisfied
in the wild.
"Transgenics need twice to three times as much food to survive and that
probably isn't out there
at certain times of the year," he says. "One has to have faith that wild
salmon probably evolved
with the optimal growth rate for survival in nature," he says. "On the other
hand, all this is
just supposition and we need to do more evaluation and tests to see how they
will compete
against wild animals." Devlin says he has not eaten any of his experimental
fish. But he says he
thinks they'd tatse just like other salmon.
--END COPY--


Remember the killer bees? 
The disease-carrying rabbits? 
...?
How long do you think before an "accident" happens and the mutant fish gets
into the wild?