Media attention on recent paper by Oke et al. 2013 in Proceedings B (F1000 recommended

See story in the Guardian here

CBC radio interview can be heard here:

Our Official Press Release Below:

A Memorial University of Newfoundland research paper released midnight Wednesday reveals potential impacts of escaped genetically modified (GM) Atlantic Salmon from aquaculture farms interbreeding with wild brown trout.

“Interest in the use of GM animals for human consumption is mounting, and currently the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is evaluating the environmental risk of GM salmon produced by AquaBounty Technologies for aquaculture production,” said Peter Westley, a co-author of the paper, in a news release.

“Substantial work has shown the risks of GM salmon interacting with members of their own species, but what has not been done before, and what our paper sought to do, was to investigate what would happen if a GM salmon should escape and interbreed with closely related brown trout.”

The lead author of the paper is former Memorial University undergraduate student Krista Oke, who did her honours thesis with Dr. Ian Fleming of the Department of Ocean Sciences. In addition to Fleming, the other co-authors are Westley and Dr. Darek Moreau, former PhD students of the university.

The paper is titled “Hybridization Between Genetically Modified Atlantic Salmon and Wild Brown Trout Reveals Novel Ecological Interactions.” It was released in the Royal Society journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

In the paper it states the researchers successfully interbred GM salmon with wild brown trout, two naturally hybridizing species, and saw the offspring carried the modified gene.

“The GM hybrids grew really fast, faster than non-GM salmon and they survived well enough to out-compete and reduce the growth of non-GM salmon in semi-natural conditions in the lab,” said Westley.

“These results emphasized that potential interbreeding of a GM animal and a closely related species needs to be considered in risk assessments. Although we think it’s highly unlikely, if GM hybrids are then able to breed with a brown trout, the foreign growth gene could potentially jump between species via hybridization.

“Broadly speaking, our study shows that hybridization between species is a potential route for new environmental impacts and novel avenues for interactions between GM animals and wild counterparts, though even the likelihood of significant ecological effects due to hybridization will be low given rates of hybridization in nature. Things may be increased slightly through escapes of domesticated farmed fish.”

The paper authors agree with AquaBounty’s proposed plan to ensure containment and sterility so GM salmon can’t interbreed — not only with their own species, but other species as well. Sterile, all-female populations in land-based facilities with redundant biological and physical containment would considerably reduce the likelihood of such environmental risk, the paper concludes.


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