Science News

Glowing Fish for your Fishtank Or Frankenstein Pets ?

Sat, 4th May 2002

Part of the show Neural Development, spinal injury & spinal cord regeneration

A Taiwanese company has created a genetically modified zebra fish that will glow in the dark, but environmentalists are worried that the fish will start a trend for bio-engineered "Frankenstein pets". The modified fish are set for import into Britain later in the year, and are the first ornamental fish to be genetically modified. A jellyfish gene called GFP has been added to make them glow yellow-green. The GM Medaka or zebra fish - an east Asian freshwater variety - has been developed by Taiwan's Taikong Corporation. It is called the TK-1. Taikong reported strong interest in Britain, where the aquatic industry is worth £300 million a year. It insisted that the TK-1 was safe, sterile and the fluorescent gene was not harmful. Taikong said it would satisfy European Union rules that genetically modified imports must not threaten health or the environment. Aquatic industry specialists are worried, however, that the TK-1 is the first of many GM pet fish destined for Britain. Tropical fish are being bio-engineered to tolerate cold and could colonise British waters if they escaped. "Piranhas that could survive in our waterways would be a major problem," said Derek Lambert, the editor of Today's Fishkeeper magazine, who is urging traders to boycott the TK-1. "We are worried about Frankenstein fish." Keith Davenport, the Ornamental Trade Association chief executive, said: "Interfering with the genome is unnecessary. We don't want animals to become fashion accessories."
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