CRISPR seabram

More profitable fish farming – at the cost of the fish

In Japan fish are supposed to be marketed as food which are genetically engineered (GE) by the CRISPR/Cas gene-scissors. In the genome of Red Seabram, gene functions were blocked which are regulating the growth of muscles. In reaction, the animals showed higher amount in muscles, larger body size, reduction in body length and abnormal position of vertebra. In comparison to the wild type, the fishes quicker gain weight and seem to move slower.

No data are made available how the genetic alteration affects life span and animal health in general. There also seem to be no data to be available on animal welfare. In addition, questions about changes in meat composition of the GE fish and potential impact on consumers cannot be answered.

At a technical level it shows that the genetic intervention was not precise: Starting from hundreds of GE fish, those were selected which seemed to be suitable for further breeding. The targeted gene sites showed largely differing alterations. Furthermore, in many cases, the genes were altered in some organs, but not in all cells of the body.

On the socioeconomic level it looks like the development is mostly driven by interests in profits: It is assumed that costs for feeding of the GE fish, reared in special containers, can be lowered. Scientists involved in the project are named in patent applications being filed on usage of gene scissors in fishes. A Japanese company now wants to start the marketing of the fishes.

Japanese authorities are assuming that GE organisms such as tomato and fish do not go along with specific risks as long as no additional genes get inserted. However, this assumption is ignoring the fact that gene scissors intervention can result in highly complex genetic changes just by blocking natural gene functions. In addition, also unintended side effects and genetic alterations are caused by the processes of genetic engineering.

This example shows that insufficient regulation of New GE may cause a severely misdirected development. In result, more and more products from genetically engineered plants and animals may enter the market without risk assessment and also being questionable from an ethical perspective.


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