Gene-edited fish

Gene-editing is not only a useful tool for agriculture but also for aquaculture. Japan already approved two gene-edited fishes, and more recently, a project in Bangladesh is aiming to produce gene-edited, farmed tilapia.
22 August, 2022
By Bert Popping

There are numerous developments related to gene-editing (aka genome-editing). Most notably are the development of new wheat varieties that have the potential of doubling the yield through minor changes in the genome. And numerous governments are making approval procedures easier for gene-edited products. Most recently, the British parliament was sent a bill to exempt most gene-edited products from the usual, long-winded approval procedures that were inhibitory to the biotechnology industry – but clearly had the goal to protect consumers from unforeseen effects of such products.

But it’s not only agricultural products that are gene-edited. In 2019, Japanese Scientists concluded that gene-edited foods are safe. Last year, Japan approved gene-edited seabream [NOTE: publication is not open-access] that has 50% more muscle mass. The gene-edited sea bream can apparently grow meatier without additional feed inputs, which would result in a competitive advantage.

A similar project is ongoing with gene-edited, farmed Tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) in Bangladesh. The researchers found that the gene-edited strain grew 27%-36% faster than the non-edited one. They also concluded that gene-edited Tilapia is more profitable and cost-effective than the conventional one.

If you are interested in new genetic techniques for fisheries and aquaculture, the recent publication “Current and future genetic technologies for fisheries and aquaculture: Implications for the work of FAO” is a highly recommended read.

In Europe, no gene-edited product is approved at this point, and gene-edited products are currently regulated in the same way the older, genetically engineered (GMO) products are regulated. However, a recent study, commissioned by the European Parliament found that the regulations dealing with genetically engineered products are not “fit-for-purpose” to regulate gene-edited products. It is likely that we will see a similar de-regulation of gene-edited products as we have seen in many Commonwealth countries already.

This will pave the way for more gene-edited products to be brought to the market, including aquaculture products. And here, new skills and a different set of knowledge is required in the transitioning aquaculture industry. This is where the EIT Food-funded AGAPE project can help deliver a workforce with the appropriate skills.

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