GE Free New Zealand in Food & Environment, 27th November 2003

Oversized Fish Cause Concern

Recent media reports of oversized fish being caught by anglers demand investigation by the authorities, raising concern about a possible contamination by GE experimentation.

GE Free New Zealand in food and environment believe there may have been a breach of security resulting in milt of experimental GE Salmon and/ or their fertile eggs being released, and that this may have resulted in effects on trout in the South Island canals. The cause of this concern comes from an article where super sized trout, reaching world records, have been caught in the Tekapo Canal.

ERMA and MAF should immediately investigate these stories to ensure there has been no breach and that there is no possibility of the fish having been influenced by a GE growth hormone from the milt from the GE salmon fish hatchery, either from ingestion of escaped salmon eggs or recombination or horizontal gene transfer from the fish themselves.

In 2000 Kings Salmon stopped their experiment into genetically engineered salmon, following reports of deformities and concerns over the risk of escape of the milt and fertilised eggs through the cage screens into the wild .

Scottish environmentalists reviewing a Purdue University study showing that, if accidentally released into the wild, the larger genetically modified fish attract four times as many mates as wild salmon attract, but produce weaker offspring, worried this might potentially decimate wild fish populations in just a few years.

" It would be unforgivable if there has been accidental crossing of the GE growth hormone salmon to another species, for example, our wild trout population- any effects could devastate the populations of any stream or river, if they escaped or were released into the wider environment,” said Claire Bleakley of GE Free NZ in food and environment.

“Accidental consumption of GE fish would also be a major concern as little is known about the implications or how such growth hormones function when genetically engineered." Further assessments should be made into the safety of such trout as food. GE Free NZ in food and environment has called on the Food Safety Authority (NZFSA) who says they have ‘no involvement at all’ since ‘trout is not a food sold in New Zealand’ and are now calling on MAF, ERMA and the Department of Conservation to look more closely into any link between the trout and salmon, and flaws in the control and regulation of such experiments. 

Claire Bleakley (06) 3089842

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