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Tuesday, 18 April, 2000, 11:07 GMT 12:07 UK
Would you eat GM salmon?
If you could serve up a nice bit of salmon for your dinner at a fraction of its usual price, would the fact that it was genetically modified put you off?Disclaimer: The BBC will put up as many of your comments as possible but we cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published. The BBC reserves the right to edit comments that are published.
US firm AF Protein is engineering giant GM fish, which can grow up to 10 times faster than normal. It could be on people's plates within a year and cut the cost of raising salmon and trout by half.
Environmentalists are concerned about the impact the fish could have on the world's wild salmon population. However the company insists they cannot interbreed with other fish because they are infertile, and are perfectly safe to consume. But would you eat it?
In a few years time, I'd not be surprised to hear that those who have cancer and consumed substantial quantities of this fish, suddenly saw their tumours grow "10 times faster than normal" or experience something comparably bad.
Whether we eat GM food or not is one matter; whether we absorb sufficient nutritive value from food is another matter altogether.
Every time I have eaten GM foodstuffs, it has passed through me, very quickly, and whole, with seemingly little or no digestion!
John B, UK
If this trend for genetically modifying everything continues unabated, we'll end up GM-ing ourselves out of existence.
Provided adequate testing has been done, I would have no hesitancy in eating genetically modified salmon.
I would not be interested in eating
this salmon at all. These GMO
products are getting approved and released into the
market way to fast. It seems that our
FDA no longer has the best interest of
the people in mind if they believe that after
one year of testing that this salmon
would be safe for human consumption.
To Elliot Entis: You say that there is no chance of the GM Salmon interbreeding in the event of introduction in the wild because the eggs are destroyed through some kind of shock treatment. What preventative measures are being taken to ensure that the male GM salmon cannot breed with the fertile 'natural' salmon? None, I'll wager, because greedy corporations will cut corners wherever possible, (that includes security measures) for the sake of profit.
Blaise Oduor, Kenya (living in USA)
Nothing wrong with genetically altered food as long as the experiment was well prepared, and side effects were obtained.
All food is made of components, and my point of view is as long as the food isn't a health hazard in the long term and in the short term it is okay to enjoy eating it.
Chris Cannon, UK
It's immoral. Of course we shall not eat GM salmons. It is not a difficult choice to say no to GM salmons if you have tasted "real salmon"
Absolutely. Growth hormones are pumped into US cattle and fed to the US populace. They now want to put fish into the food chain that have been genetically modified to grow to five times their normal size in a short period. America, land of the free you are enslaved by big business.
I'll eat anything that doesn't make me sick, and I don't care where it comes from or who it hurts. I can't wait for big ribs.
Stop this GM madness! Nature always strikes back!
Let's make GM animals that don't mind being eaten, then we don't need to feel bad about factory farming.
Reading these comments it disturbs me to see how many people think that GM is the same as crossbreeding. You cannot crossbreed a fish with a tomato, but GM has put fish genes in Tomatoes. This is how unknown and potentially dangerous results happen in GM.
If the Media and the public persist in their scare-mongering we will lose valuable life saving medicines. If we lose our pool of scientists in GM-food industry, this will also threaten GM in medicine as well.
H Ong, UK
GM modified organisms if released can permanently contaminate the environment. No other form of pollution has this permanent effect. It is totally unreasonable to leave future generations to deal with the problems this may cause.
We often hear the following argument against genetic modification: "What if this gene escapes into the wild?". Think about it: the gene is ALREADY in the wild, quite harmlessly, in other species. Where do you think the scientists got it from?
I would never eat GM salmon! We were born naturally; machines did not make us. We live and depend on nature. We should not disturb it any more.
Wes Raymond, Canada
GM food OK - Label them - Let people have choice - to buy it or not. If later on the scientists change their tune, saying they cause problems, then it would be a tragedy of immense proportion.
Atlantis all over again!
Don't do it, don't go there, once the fish get out and contaminate others its all over. The majority of sane intelligent people do not want GM foods, who is going to be accountable and pay when things go wrong?
Not the scientist and certainly not the politicians. Spend the money on intelligent natural science and stop playing with millions of years of evolution.
The cow that you eat at a restaurant has little in common with the wild Arouchs that cavemen speared. The same applies to all domestic food animals. Why should salmon be different. As for the spread of new genes into wild populations, natural selection will prevent major problems. If the gene causes does not add to survival ability under wild conditions it will be removed from the population.
I will not knowingly eat anything genetically engineered nor radiated. We are as powerless to stop these companies, as you are in Europe, because of profits
Yes I would eat GM salmon. However it is important that sufficient testing is done to ensure the general salmon population is not contaminated (cross-bred). There should also be tests to verify the safety of the GM salmon meat for human consumption.
Mike Roantree, UK
I fish for salmon and I love to eat this fish. If salmon can be grown much faster and bigger by GM methods this would drastically reduce the price. I believe that there are so many other dormant dangers such as breathing smoke polluted air, that the dangers only assumed to be inflicted by GM must be minute.
Yes, let's start making bigger plates to accommodate these monsters!
No GM food on my plate! Save your time and money on your research. I will never buy it or eat it consciously. Don't count on me as a customer. Ask me why? How about my choice? This is enough for me.
D Soleil, Canada
I'd rather be counting the money I saved buying farm-raised, genetically engineered salmon than fretting over how the fish feels about its sterility.
In answer to several of the issues posed by comments here I would offer the following facts:
(1) Our salmon reach market size - 3 to 4 Kg - in about half the time it takes for standard fish;
I would also remind everyone that despite calls for leaving things in their "natural order", virtually nothing we grow and eat is natural: every major crop has been "gene modified" by farmers and others for ages. And nature is always changing: nothing is static.
Finally, the scientists who developed this advance are not American: both are Canadian, one born in Scotland and the other in Asia.
It's not about choice but about risk:
It only has to go wrong once, and when it does go wrong, it will reproduce & reproduce & reproduce.
What if the GM-tests prove that it IS harmful. How will they deal with that?
If it has passed the standard health and safety tests, I would eat it. I see nothing morally incorrect about GM foods and feel that it is only the uninformed that really go against it!
When are people going to realise that these new food production experiments hold the key to ending World famine. In case anyone has failed to realise, the World's population is growing at an alarming rate. 'Genetic Engineering' is nothing new - the cross-pollination of plants and flowers has been going on for years.
The fact that scientists happen to have identified certain genes and given this process a new name is irrelevant.
The sooner the media gets bored of this pointless debate and people start thinking for themselves the better.
Mark M. Newdick, USA/UK
Now, salmon, what next? Sheep the size of elephants? It's all profoundly immoral. The manipulation and abuse of other animals has to stop.
We have been growing modified foods and plants for years and yet people are just starting to get a bit nervous about it. If it were going to affect us at all it would have done it by now.
Genetic modification is, as far as I see it, a means to cheaply feeding the world population. Something which a large number of third world countries could do with right now... they've been eating GM crops for years and would have no doubt died without them.
I'd take the cheaper GM salmon over the expensive natural stuff without a doubt.
Hamilton Clarke, England
Isn't it bad enough that we breed animals to kill and eat? Do we really need to modify them to save us time and money? This is just good old American greed gone one step nearer insanity.
This may seem a very silly question
but if these fish are infertile, how did
they breed them in the first place ?
If the fertile parents of these fish are
not "super salmon" themselves then how
are they produced ?
Finally has anyone done any feeding
trials to see what the long term effects
on eating these fish are, as would have
to be done on a new drug ?
I seem to remember the same thing being done to pigs in about 1993. The pigs grew quickly all right, but they all had arthritis, couldn't walk and most of them died of liver failure. Has there been any mention of the health implications of the engineered salmon? What is their quality of life expected to be like?
Fact - farmed fish escape into the wild. Fact - sterilisation techniques are never 100% effective. The potential exists for GM salmon to pollute a very successful gene pool that has been 'naturally selected' over many years. Why aren't scientists getting the message that the majority of people in this country don't want to take such risks where nature is concerned? Money isn't everything.
This plan has nothing to do with feeding the poor. It is just another mean whereby big business can capitalise on their financial strengths.
Humans will always strive for convenience. If we can tame all of nature we will have conquered our greatest inconvenience - unpredictability. But what a dull world we will have created.
Can't think of good reason why anyone wouldn't eat one. The argument that GM technology is somehow unethical or even 'unnatural' rings hollow. The only real concern with GMO's, that the transgenes will be 'released' into the ecosystem. This is overcome in the case with the transgenic salmon being sterile. What's the problem?
There has been recent research on population dynamics that indicated that because female salmon prefer larger mates they will preferentially choose the GM fish. But the GM fish are less fertile and less able to survive in the wild. The net result is that the introduced genes spread rapidly through the wild salmon population which then crashes to extinction after a mere 40 generations.
You take the rough with the smooth. If it means an end to the existing Salmon farming methods in the Scottish lochs them I'm all for it. The wild North Atlantic Salmon is practically extinct and anything that helps redress that balance should be encouraged. I think we face a far greater threat from the pollution of (which current farming methods contribute to) our rivers than the GM foods. It is a question of balance.
Of course I'd buy and eat it, if the flavour/texture were comparable to traditionally farmed salmon. Presumably these advances could also reduce the price of smoked salmon products.
Tridiv Borah, Germany/India
No, no, no! As a person who has many friends in the fishing industry in Alaska it has been bad enough seeing the advent of farmed salmon, causing prices (and profits for the fishermen) to drop dramatically. GM salmon would further decrease profits for the fishermen... perhaps putting an end to a major fishery in Alaska.
Most Brits eat fish and chips out of dirty newspaper print -
GM salmon can't be any worse for your health!
I wouldn't want to eat GM food. It may be cheaper, but right now, there's more than enough food for everyone. Just as we respect vegetarians, we must also understand that there will always be people who do not believe in technologically modified food. So, I say; Respect each other's rights!
Jon Roney, UK
Even IF 100% sterility could be guaranteed, wild fish populations could still be disrupted by the size of fish, breeding and feeding competition, as well as diseases and parasites common to fish farms. In addition, the GM salmon have suffered facial deformities and side effects - graphically reported in the scientific literature. When considering whether we want to have this fish on our plates, we also need to look further into the other environmental aspects, such as where will the feed come from? Fish meal from wild-caught fish or GM soya? GM salmon would be introduced into an already troubled fisheries industry, where even the commonly eaten cod is an endangered species and waters are polluted by fish farms. The GM grow-fast salmon do not attempt to address any of these problems. The question falls back - again - to profits.
Mike Burton, UK
I've read everything from warnings of doom based on nothing but the fictional Jurassic Park to suggestions that modern genetic engineering is no different from the selective breeding used on farms for hundreds of years.
When children play with fire, they are risking their lives. Yet they are also learning about a technology without which modern civilisation would never have been possible. It is that balance of risk against benefit that we must strike to achieve.
Certainly not. Who knows what devilment these mad scientists have been up to.
One might start growing gills. Tinkering with Mother Nature is courting disaster I say.
Do all the "NO GM food" advocates really understand about GM foods? Are they aware that just about every loaf of bread purchased in the UK is made from GM wheat? Remember pictures from your history lessons showing TALL wheat being harvested.
If there are dangers, they are likely to be purely environmental, there is no direct risk to human health.
There is a need to produce food that will sustain the world's ever increasing population but at what cost. Until it has been proven beyond all reasonable doubt that there is not a catastrophe in the making then we should take caution before we possibly destroy the delicate balance of nature.
I welcome scientific progress. I am a student of science myself, undertaking research using genetic engineering techniques on a regular basis. But, clearly, more research is needed to convince me and other well-thinking individuals that no harm will come from GM foods.
Never confuse change and progress or trust the "proof" of anyone whose sole motivation is money.
So many of the people who have commented on this mention BSE, however, BSE has nothing to do with GM foods so everyone who has used this in their reason not to eat GM food obviously don't know what they are talking about.
Does our opinion matter. I think it will be produced because they (producers) can always find a market. If not America or Europe, why not countries where people are not literate, strong and rich enough to say no to such a big scientific temptation from the only power.
It's not science that is bad in itself, it is the abuse of science by government and the scare tactics of mass media that cause the problems.
Steve McIntosh, Scotland (living in USA)
No, I will not eat GM salmon. No, I will not eat GM crops. Have we learned absolutely nothing yet about tampering with nature? What I find infuriating is that GM crops, fish, whatever are being forced into the food chain whether we like it or not, simply via the varied tests, and there seems nothing whatever that we can do to prevent it happening, apart from writing our objections to the BBC.
I would have no problem eating GM salmon. As long as it looked and tasted like regular salmon.
These new genetically modified plants and animals have the potential to end starvation in the world. As long as scientists do this to animals and plants and do not modify human beings, I support this. But modifying humans is very wrong.
Irina Popa, Canada
It is just completely naive to think that it is "scientific" to support the GM salmon (a) without any evidence that it truly is safe; and (b) when what evidence we do have suggests that it may be extremely dangerous and risks driving wild salmon populations to extinction.
That's not being pro-science, that's being an idiot. It's not "science" that tells us to breed these appallingly unhealthy giant salmon; it's greed. These salmon are going to feed the world's hungry? Give us a break.
Simon Dresner, UK
There is absolutely no need for it.
There is plenty of food in the world,
all this is yet another illustration
of business greed. We have enough salmon,
we have enough food, let's work on
making sure everyone gets a chance to eat it,
not work on distorting nature to benefit
Chris Scott, Australia
I don't think that the core issue
here is GM salmon, or even GM food
in general. The fundamental choice
is the classic choice between living
standards and the environment.
Even today, there is enough food
to feed the world without GM technology. The problem is that 80% of
the food goes to 20% of the people.
Since most of the commentators
here belong to the lucky 20%.
So, are any of the speakers here
prepared to put their money where
their mouths are, and drop their
living standards substantially, so
that each of you could feed 4
people from the unlucky 80%??
Please remember that for each of
you who argue on this page about
GM salmon (or any other issue),
there are 4 people who can't make
that choice because they have no
food, GM or otherwise.
This is clearly a highly emotional and polarised debate. I would just remind everyone that the scientific process is one of trial and error!
Linda Jenkins Crawford, USA
"However the company insists they cannot interbreed with other fish because they are infertile"
Haven't they watched Jurrasic Park?
The use of GM foods will be proven to be a flagrant undermining of any consumers immune system especially if children are unknowingly and without their informed concern consume such 'freak' products this is a perversion of science as far as foodstuffs are concerned
How sad, the once proud Britons are now pathetic cowards, demanding cradle to grave security and afraid to take any chances whatsoever. What a terrible shame, genetically modified to be politically correct, following their leaders like so many sheep.
The problem is that consumers will not be given the opportunity to make any choice. Like it or not, it will find its way into the food chain in one form or another.
Raymond Bettison, UK
What a choice! We either get GM salmon from the scientists that brought us the cyclamate and saccharine "scares" of so many years ago, or we get the fish-farm salmon that die in the thousands from the pollution of their tanks and the disease ridden farms in Scotland. Gee, what an interesting dilemma!
P Walter, England
Of course I would.
There's nothing makes me more in favour of GM food than the luddite fools who rant against it...
They grow ten times faster; do they also grow larger? They cost only half as much to raise, but how does this affect the price per pound on my plate? They are infertile - but do they know this and do their potential mates know this?
Why stop at animals and plants with this new GM technology, why not take it to its logical conclusion and use it in humans. We could manufacture advanced athletes capable of almost anything, soldiers who do not feel pain or emotion and have incredible strength and endurance, we could eradicate genetic defects and diseases and make the general public live longer and healthier lives.
I would like to remind people that it is the fault of politicians and farmers cutting costs that we had a problem with BSE, scientists who warned of the dangers and sorted out the resulting mess! GM technology has vast potential, to feed the world in the coming overpopulated decades.
Greg Harris, UK
I would certainly not eat GM salmon.
The sooner that
all GM foods are
clearly marked so
that customers have the choice to be able
to leave all GM
foods on the shelf
the better. The only
reason that these
goods are produced
is money - the state
of the environment
is so toxic already
that its intolerable
that the government
ban all these GM
foods until they
have been properly
You only have to look at the fish to know something is not right. I have a degree in Chemistry and know a little about pharmacology.
What are the long-term effects of eating this food to humans, we are only now seeing the effects of past decisions. Leave the Salmon alone.
James Jeffrey, USA, but English
I enjoy salmon but would certainly not knowingly eat GM salmon (or any GM food, if possible). So what if scientists say it is safe, scientists are not infallible. Never underestimate the human ability to screw things up and I certainly would not trust big GM companies to put safety before profit.
I'd eat GM foods, as far as I am concerned they are a safe food source that is sustainable and has the advantage of being able to deliver essential vitamins and minerals.
No danger to us. US scientists have proved it! Well that's should be good enough for everyone. What would we do without the superior knowledge of the US scientist!
To Brian Kelly - would these scientists be the same that work for the FDA and said beef from cows fed with growth hormones is perfectly safe to eat?
This is NOT science gone mad; it is the commercial exploitation of science gone mad.
Is it advancement?
Is it investor driven?
Is it necessary (really)?
Could there be alternatives resulting
from efficiencies elsewhere?
The frightening thing is not only is most of the
world politically denying their own B.S.E.
problems (thus might 'deny all' reign again),
but also what are we going to do
when the next 'advancement' jeopardises
natural selection for our children's
It's market driven - let's not do it to
Oh, what a wonderful idea! Just imagine, one day our high priests of the technology god will be able to grow large cubes of delicious, nutritious, quivering muscle tissue with a scintillating range of flavours and textures in row after row of incubating vats housed in factories that sprawl for miles. "Look how much we've saved on our weekly shopping bill darling!" "Aren't our scientists clever!" "Mummy, Mummy why is the sky brown? Why are the rivers black?"
Yes, I would if the salmon tastes equally good. There is usually a difference in taste in wild and aqua-culture salmon, but most salmon we buy now is farm-reared anyway. Faster growth also means less feed consumption (up to 40%), so less pollution from fish farms. In many developing countries, fish provide the bulk of protein, so this has the potential to improve nutrition for the 1 billion people living on the brink.
The scientists might not get it right first time
but they must be given the chance. Does
anyone really believe we would be better
off if we had no cars or tractors or lorries.
It is only since the agricultural advances that
we can feed ourselves without using every
bit of land for farming. Well done the GM
brigade, press on carefully and let me taste
your salmon before I decide to eat it.
Yes, I have no problems with the idea of eating GM fish,
or GM corn, soya, potatoes or any of the other
GM foods. I sometimes despair of the anti-GM lobbyists and
their posturing; fact is, food-species have
been genetically modified by humans for centuries!
I'd far rather eat GM than organic, but it seems the
anti-GM pressure-groups are bent on denying me this
Why not ask the starving millions in Africa if they would prefer it (and other GM food) to starving. There again, if we distributed what the world has fairly we would not need to genetically modify the food chain. If we are though, let us stick to the good old British tradition of NIMBY and test it somewhere else...
It is wonderful to live hear in the west and have the choice what we should eat, and what we shouldn't eat. Maybe non-GM/organic food evangelists should take a few years sabbatical in Ethiopia or Somalia.
Every invention that has benefited mankind has been treated as evil and dangerous by an ignorant many. Lets run the necessary tests for human and environmental health then if all is ok say a big thank you as we do away with more starvation whilst saving some pennies. No more of these modern day anti science witch hunts please.
The problem with GM anything is that we are trying to help God (or so we think) The potentials I think are great but what if something goes wrong?
I think people will end up eating more and more animals - is this really necessary. People should eat less animal and more vegetable, pulses etc. Secondly, one of the attractions of salmon is that it is special because it is a treat. Salmon, chips and mushy peas somehow loses its appeal.
re Stuart, UK:
Just because it's progress,
doesn't necessarily mean
it's for the best. I wouldn't eat GM
foods voluntarily, as much from
not wanting to line the corporate
pockets as for health risks. Don't
give in to the propaganda!
Gordon Cowell, Spain
At last the miracle of the loaves and fishes is explained...Jesus was a GM scientist.... (although the water in the wine must have been instant freeze dried Merlot!)
Is it me or is the world going crazy?
Yes, I would eat genetically modified salmon, but only following additional "independent" testing to confirm that there would be no detrimental affect to the environment or consumer.
Of course, anyone who rants on about GM not being safe are the same type of people who 100 years ago thought the air would be sucked out their lungs if they went faster than 30mph. Get a grip people - you have been eating GM for years. It's progress, don't stand in its way.
You don't know if it is safe until you can prove that nobody has ever died of it. I think I'll leave the food-taster's job to someone else.
Margaret Carre, Belgium
Would I eat GM Salmon - hell yeah! I love salmon, and I'm as trusting of GM food producers as I am of any other food producers (95% fat free, my eye!). As for luddites who appear to oppose all progress through science, quoting three Mile Island and Thalidomide - science isn't infallible, as any scientist will tell you - but the benefits outweigh the negatives. The fact that you've quoted Jurassic Park says it all.
C Noel, UK
Under no circumstances would I eat GM food at all, let alone some giant fish that had been artificially generated.
As with most things of this nature, time will tell whether it was a safe choice or another ecological disaster that should have been left waiting in the wings.
These fish (when not shut in cages and not genetically modified) instinctively swim thousands of miles to their breeding grounds, what way will their instincts be messed up by foreign genes??
CC, Northern Ireland
In reply to Phil Broeders, it was scientists who were responsible for the eradication of smallpox, for producing treatments for many types of cancer, for etc etc. Scientists discover/innovate, it is up to society how/if these discoveries are used.
It's all very well breeding GM salmon in farms, but what happens when these escape into the rivers and oceans? They breed with the natural creatures of the species and, before you know it, there ain't no such thing as a common or garden natural fish. Extinction! You won't catch GM fish on my plate!
Alex S, UK
Do these people have any idea what they are doing?
I mean no-one has the right to play God.
I wish they would do PHDs in common sense.
I personally have no fears about the safety of eating GM food, I have yet to see any even partially rational basis for the horror stories that so many groups and people state of the new inserted genes altering your own DNA.
As a thought experiment, imagine the effects on the human race if some of us developed ten times as fast and were physically mature in only 18 months - I'm not suggesting this would happen, but think about it.
I find it amazing that environmentalists come up with all these objections against every advancement or discovery, and don't try to provide any genuine alternative to what science is providing other than eating fruit and vegetables and subsequently destroying every farming industry and GM food industry going.
No, I would never eat GM salmon in thousand years. Why do we never learn from our past
mistakes? (BSE, etc). Apart from possible risks to our health, when are people going to realise that, once done, damage to the environment is forever.
I'm sorry, but I am not convinced that splicing the gene of a potato to make it resistant to frost is going to give me cancer any more than breeding the colour in and flavour out of a tomato. Why should I be denied the option?
I can still buy a packet of cigarettes, and everybody knows the health risks related to smoking. Why haven't they been banned? (Apart from the obvious tax revenue!)
Alex S, UK
No, quite frankly I don't want to be told in 20 years time, oh you know that GM food you were eating well it causes illnesses x, y and z.
I would be grateful to test any GM food as I am sure that there is a conspiracy against the GM companies in the food industry with many of the traditional companies afraid of the competition.
The only good thing in genetically manipulated tame salmon is that if it indeed is edible it will reduce the catching of wild salmon and protect it from over fishing. How such broiler salmon would contribute into water contamination and algae growth due huge amounts of fish manure produced during growing such fish has not at all been discussed at any forum.
Who really cares. As long as it tastes as good as the original salmon. After all we have been consuming GM BEEF AND POULTRY FOR THE PAST SO MANY YEARS. So why worry about GM Salmon. As long as it is scientifically safe and does not cause degenerating effects on human metabolism, and human reproductive system.
Brian Kelly, Netherlands (originally USA)
Yes, I would eat GM salmon. We are doing far more damage to the salmon's health and to the rest of the links higher up the food chain by the amount of chemicals and pollutants we pour into our rivers and oceans. Does altering something by GM methods make any difference?
This debate is pointless as so many of the others dealing with GM foods or as they are so fondly referred to as Frankenstein foods. I would like to point out the fact that because our planet is becoming over populated, our land and oceans are losing the war against pollution, erosion, and draught, GM foods are going to become a necessity. Does anyone remember the 60's film with Charlton Heston "Soylent Green"? That could be our future without modern technology.
I'd rather stick pins in my eyes.
Yes - so long as it tastes like a salmon and not a test tube.
I'm afraid that scientists are not the infallible creatures they think they are - and we're the ones who bear the brunt of their arrogance. As Ian Malcolm said in Jurassic Park "They got so focused on whether they could, they forgot to ask whether they should".
Phil Broeders, UK
11 Apr 00 | Sci/Tech
Giant GM salmon on the way
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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