Genetically Engineered Fish: Potential Impacts on Aquaculture, Biodiversity, and the Environment

R. A. Dunham and B. Su,  GMOs: Implications for Biodiversity Conservation and Ecological Processes,  2020.

Studies on transgenic fish for the aquaculture industry have focused on improving growth rates, enhancing disease resistance, altering body composition, acting as biological factories for medical proteins, and even altering temperature tolerance and coloration. The future impact of transgenesis will likely be quite large. Growth hormone-transgenic salmon has been approved for human consumption and has been introduced to the market in Canada and soon to the USA. This is the first human consumption of approved transgenic meat. Transgene insertion has many pleiotropic effects. Several studies have projected the fitness of transgenic fish to be low, in general, compared to non-transgenic and wild fish; thus, their environmental risk is likely low and they would have minimal, if any, long-term impact on ecosystems or biodiversity. However, there have been no actual escapements; thus, only projections of risk are available based on small-scale experiments and the characteristics of transgenic fish compared to controls. An active area of research is repressible transgenic sterilization and sterilization using gene editing, both of which would allow application of transgenic fish with only short-term consequences for ecosystems in the worst-case scenario. Transgenic technology could also be potentially used to reduce or eliminate populations of nuisance species.

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