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Last Updated: Friday, 27 June, 2003, 21:33 GMT 22:33 UK
GM fish glows in the bowl
By Dr David Whitehouse
BBC News Online science editor

A Taiwanese company has created a genetically modified (GM) ornamental fish that glows in the dark.

TK-1 zebra fish, AFP
But will they catch on?
The Taikong Corporation took DNA from a jellyfish and inserted it into a zebra fish to make it shine a yellow-green colour.

GM animals are frequently used in labs and flocks of GM sheep make valuable proteins in their milk, but the "Night Pearl" zebra fish is the first gene-altered pet to go on sale to the public.

For some, the animal will be a fascinating novelty; for others, it will raise fears of a trend for bio-engineered "Frankenstein pets".

The Taikong Corporation reports strong interest in its creation from the UK, where the aquatic industry is worth millions.

Safe and sterile

Taikong insists the GM fish, designated TK-1, is safe, sterile and that its additional fluorescent gene is harmless.

The fish was unveiled in 2001, but it took another year and a half to develop a technique to render the animal sterile. It cannot cross-breed with natural fish.

TK-1 was developed using the work of HJ Tsai of the National Taiwan University.

Initially, Taikong plans to sell 30,000 glowing fish at US $17 each and then increase production to more than 100,000 in three months. But not everyone is enthusiastic.

Aquatic industry specialists are worried TK-1 may be the first of many GM pet fish destined for Britain. In particular, some tropical fish are being bio-engineered to tolerate cold and could colonise UK waters if they escaped, disturbing the present ecosystem.

According to Derek Lambert, of Today's Fishkeeper magazine, GM piranhas could survive in our waterways and pose a major problem. He is urging traders to boycott the TK-1.

Keith Davenport, of the Aquatic Ornamental Trade Association (AOTA), commented that interfering with the genome was unnecessary and said people did not want animals to become fashion accessories.

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