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The BBC's Robert Piggott reports
"The latest revolution in GM food"
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The BBC's Environment Correspondent Robert Pigott
"AF Protein says all its test fish will be infertile"
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Christopher Poupard, Salmon and Trout Association
"Salmon are unique and highly complex"
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Tuesday, 11 April, 2000, 11:35 GMT 12:35 UK
Giant GM salmon on the way
A normal salmon
Natural salmon could become a thing of the past
Genetically-modified fish, which can grow up to 10 times faster than normal, could be cleared for human consumption within a year.

A US firm - AF Protein - is developing the GM fish on Prince Edward Island, Canada.

Food under the microscope
The fish would become the first genetically modified animal cleared for consumption, and the technology involved could cut the cost of raising salmon and trout by half.

The Massachusetts-based company has inserted two sets of fish genes into Atlantic salmon. The first set are growth hormone genes and the second, from a different fish, activate them.

Salmon are unique and highly complex. They migrate thousands of miles and still manage to return to their home river. This has evolved since the last Ice Age

Christopher Poupard
As a result, at the age of 18 months, the salmon are five times the size of their unmodified siblings.

Traditional fish farmers fear being undercut by GM salmon. There are also fears from environmentalists.

AF Protein says it has made sure all of its experimental fish are infertile.

'Trojan horse' fear

But campaigners say it is impossible to guarantee sterility and they are worried about the dangers to the wider fish community.

Christopher Poupard, of the Salmon and Trout Association, said: "Salmon are unique and highly complex.

"They migrate thousands of miles and still manage to return to their home river. This has evolved since the last Ice Age.

"We are concerned that escaped genetically-modified fish might breed with wild fish and interrupt that process."

In December researchers warned that the release of just one GM fish could wipe out local populations of the species. It is the so-called "Trojan gene" scenario.

Scottish tests

Tests on GM salmon were carried out in 1996 at a salmon farm on Loch Fyne, on Scotland's west coast.

Last year, Scottish Secretary John Reid pointed out the experiments had been carried out under the previous Conservative government and he said all 50 fish involved had been destroyed afterwards.

But many Scottish salmon producers are pressuring the government to allow GM fish to be sold.

They fear being outdone by other countries, such as Norway, which could adopt the technology.

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01 Dec 99 | Sci/Tech
'Trojan gene' could wipe out fish
29 Jul 99 | Sci/Tech
GM salmon prompts safety pledge
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