Genetically Modified Salmon Could Cross-Breed With Wild Fish
May 30, 2013

Hybrids Sired By GM Salmon Could Harm Normal Fish Populations

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

If genetically modified Atlantic salmon escaped into the wild, they could cross-breed with wild brown trout in order to create a new, fast-growing, highly competitive species that could harm naturally occurring fish populations, according to new research published Wednesday in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

According to Damian Carrington of The Guardian, experts from the Memorial University of Newfoundland Department of Ocean Sciences report that the offspring of transgenic Atlantic salmon and wild brown trout could produce hybrids.

Those hybrids could suppress the growth of GM salmon by 82 percent and wild salmon by 54 percent when they all found themselves competing over the same food sources in a simulated stream, the researchers said.

Less than one percent of the offspring from these closely-related fish species actually wind up being hybrids, but the study authors warn that “escapes and introductions of domesticated salmon can increase rates to as much as 41 percent,” Carrington noted.

“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of environmental impacts of hybridization between a GM animal and a closely related species,” the study authors wrote, according to The Guardian. “These findings suggest that complex competitive interactions associated with transgenesis and hybridization could have substantial ecological consequences for wild Atlantic salmon should they ever come into contact [with GM salmon] in nature.”

However, AquaBounty, the biotech firm that created the salmon, told BBC News that these types of risks were negligible because the fish that the produce are all female, sterile, and would be kept in land-based tanks. The company´s AquAdvantage salmon undergo strict testing before becoming commercially available, they added.

“Overall, the study seems to present no new evidence for any added environmental risk associated with the AquAdvantage salmon,” Ron Stotish, CEO of AquaBounty Technologies, told BBC World Service Science Reporter Rebecca Morelle. Their transgenic salmon is currently being evaluated by the US Food and Drug Administration and could become the first genetically modified animals to be approved for human consumption, Morelle added.