NZ King Salmon to dispose of GM cells

NZ King Salmon is watching developments with genetically modified salmon in the United States but says it intends to get rid of its GM salmon material.

The US Food and Drug Administration that regulates food in the US market says in a report published last month that the fish will have no significant environmental impact.

In a draft environmental assessment, the Food and Drug Administration said it had "carefully considered the potential environmental impacts of the proposed action and at this time has made a preliminary determination that this action would not have significant effect on the quality of the human environment in the United States".

The AquAdvantage salmon, developed at Canada's Memorial University and the University of Toronto, were an Atlantic salmon egg that included genes from Chinook salmon and an eel-like fish called the ocean pout. The genetically engineered salmon grow twice as fast as conventional fish, reducing the rearing period from three years to about 18 months.

Critics fear the "frankenfish" could escape their onshore fish farms and affect wild populations.

Marlborough-based Green Party list MP Steffan Browning said though New Zealand had no connection with the Canadian-designed fish, genetically modified salmon had been tested in New Zealand years ago.

That experiment had been abandoned, but King Salmon had told him the company still had the GM salmon material in storage, he said.

"It's quite concerning in a way because this is a company being given clear government assistance to expand.

"It would be good to hear them say they wouldn't use GM salmon in the waters of the Marlborough Sounds, let alone anywhere else in New Zealand."

King Salmon aquaculture manager Mark Preece said the company had had a "small-scale research project into growth-enhanced salmon" during the late 1990s, but that was never pursued.

The company still had some material from that programme held in secure storage off-site but had no plans to use it, he said.

"There is a long and involved process to dispose of it requiring public notification, which we plan to apply for in due course."

Primarily for competitive reasons, King Salmon always kept an eye on what was going on in the industry so it would be interested to see what came from AquAdvantage's application to the US authorities, Mr Preece said.

"NZ King Salmon currently has no involvement in the development of salmon using GM techniques and neither is it considering becoming involved."

The Marlborough Express