Researcher Darek Moreau showing a genetically modified salmon. (Photo: Memorial University)
Transgenic salmon could infect wild populations: study
Monday, July 18, 2011, 00:30 (GMT + 9)
Researchers have found that genetically modified (GM) Atlantic salmon can reproduce with wild salmon if they escape into the wild. This could allow the genetic modification to enter wild populations, according to Darek Moreau, a researcher in evolutionary ecology at Memorial University in St John's.
The findings appear in the July online edition of the journal Evolutionary Applications.
For two years, Moreau and colleagues have looked at the breeding behaviour of wild and GM male Atlantic salmon in a lab setting to gauge the ability of transgenic males to complete with wild males during the reproductive season. The researchers observed that, while wild male salmon were more successful at breeding, the GM males managed to reproduce naturally, although they were usually less interested in female salmon and bred less frequently.
Although the ecological and genetic effects remain uncertain, the findings highlight the importance of keeping transgenic salmon from entering the wild, Moreau said, reports Post Media.
"Much more data is required due to the complex interactions these animals may have with natural populations and the environment," he noted.
One of the main concerns is the “Trojan gene effect” -- when GM fish outcompete or reproduce equally against wild rivals, the result could genetically be inferior offspring, which could eventually lead a species towards extinction, Summit Voice reports.
Transgenic Atlantic salmon is one of the first species of GM fish being considered for aquaculture in North America and Europe. Yet many questions remain regarding the potential impact on wild salmon stocks if a transgenic species enters the wild, Moreau said
He underscored that this is the first study to empirically examine the breeding performance of GM Atlantic salmon containing the same gene as AquAdvantage salmon, the transgenic fish created by AquaBounty Technologies Inc.
Federal scientists in Canada this year confirmed the risk of contaminating Canada's fish populations if GM salmon escaped captivity. Senior scientists in biotechnology and aquaculture from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) expressed concerns about "limited" and possibly "constrained" regulatory powers pertaining to the approvals for GM salmon.
Ronald Stotish, CEO of AquaBounty, said farming GM fish is safer than traditional aquaculture because the company’s transgenic salmon are female and sterile and would be bred in confined pools from which it would be very difficult to escape.
- Consumers Union worries GE salmon is unsafe
- GM salmon faces widespread opposition
By Natalia Real