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FDA Gives Green Light to Glowing Pet Fish

December 10, 2003

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The Food and Drug Administration announced Tuesday it won’t regulate the nation’s first genetically engineered household pet, a zebra fish that glows fluorescent.

“Because tropical aquarium fish are not used for food purposes, they pose no threat to the food supply,” the FDA said in a statement posted on its Web site.

Singapore scientists gave the naturally black-and-silver zebra fish a fluorescent red glow by inserting a sea anemone gene.

With the FDA’s decision, and barring a federal court order, the GloFish will be legally marketed in every state except California, the only state that regulates genetically engineered fish to protect its native fish populations. The fish is set to go on sale next month.

Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of The Center for Food Safety, criticized the decision, saying: “My major fear is that this sets a frightening precedent.”

GloFish Praised As Pioneering Genetics

The Singaporean creator of a new breed of glowing fish said Wednesday he hopes the creatures, which were approved this week for sale in the United States, will help reduce fears over genetically modified products.

The Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday that it won’t regulate the naturally black and silver zebra fish, which have been modified to become fluorescent red, green and orange.

The Singapore scientist who created the fish, Gong Zhiyan, said he hopes the pets, produced by adding jelly fish and sea anemone genes, can help people understand genetic manipulation when they go on sale in the United States early next month for $5 a piece.

“Very little is known about biotechnology. By understanding how we made the fish, people will understand the technology better and be less afraid,” said Gong, who teaches at the National University of Singapore.

Companies selling the fish are required to pay royalties to the university, which holds a patent on the method used to create the new breed, and U.S. institutions that developed the genes that give them their fluorescent colors, Gong said. He did not identify the U.S. institutions.

The GloFish were first sold in Taiwan earlier this year, but had not gone on sale in Singapore because no system was in place to collect the royalties and licensing fees, he said.

Gong said studies have proven his fish harmless. However, there is widespread concern that genetically modified animals and plants could cause long-term damage to the environment and people’s health.

On the Net:

Read the FDA’s statement

Yorktown Technologies

The Center for Food Safety

More science, space, and technology from RedNova

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