Genetically modified fish and their effects on food quality and human health and nutrition
Trends in Food Science & Technology, 14, (5-8), . (doi:10.1016/S0924-2244(03)00070-0).
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Fish (finfish) of many species have been subjected to genetic modification over a period of more than 10 years, but only in the last few years have any begun to be considered seriously for the food market. The main species involved are Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch), common carp (Cyprinus carpio), tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus), and channel catfish (Ictalurus punctartus). Although the main parameter modified to date has been growth rate, other traits that are currently being worked on include cold tolerance, disease resistance, and sterility. This review considers what has been achieved to date, possible commercial uptake, and likely consequences for the environment and human health and nutrition.
In both the developing and the developed world fish constitutes a very important part of diet, in terms of both quantity and contribution to nutritional requirements. The total fish catch in the world (inclusive of fish, crustaceans and molluscs) in 1999 was estimated to be over 92 million metric tonnes (mt), while the yield from aquaculture (fish farming) was over 33 million mt ([FAO, 2000]). Most of the capture fishery is from marine areas (84.6 million mt) the remainder being from fresh water. Marine capture fisheries outputs peaked in 1996 and 1997 and, despite increased effort, are now showing signs of decline because of stock depletion from overfishing ( [Hutchings, 2000]). Locations and amounts of fish capture in 1999 were 40 million mt from Asia, 16 million mt from South America, over 15 million mt from Europe, 7 million mt from North America and 3 million mt from Africa. The north west Pacific region accounted for over 24 million mt. The ten countries with the largest yields (in million mt) from capture fisheries in 1999 were China (17), Peru (8), Chile and Japan (5 each), Indonesia, Russia and USA (4 each), India and Thailand (3 each) and Norway (2). The ten countries with the greatest aquaculture production (in million mt) in 1999 were China (22), India (2), Japan (0.7), Bangladesh, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam (0.6 each), Norway and, USA (0.5 each) and Philippines (0.3).
Aquaculture is one of the fastest growing food producing sectors, and is gradually replacing the deficit in world capture fisheries that has been caused by overfishing. Fish is a major source of animal protein in most developing countries and, in developed countries, the interest in the dietary benefits of fatty fish, such as tuna, eel, mackerel, herring and salmonids, and especially the presence of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in such fish, ensures a constant, health-driven incentive to consume more fish.
In the context of both the dietary benefits of fish consumption and the increasing contribution made to fish production by aquaculture, it is clear that aquaculture is now undergoing and will continue to undergo a revolution in quality and quantity of production similar to that which has driven the improvement in agricultural stock animals for the past few hundred years. Since fish can be readily improved by application of transgenic technology, it is clearly timely to consider what genetically modified (GM) fish are likely to offer in the future, both in terms of benefits and disadvantages. A very useful recent report by the Royal Society (UK) on the use of GM animals is available.
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