Agence France Presse April 6
WELLINGTON, April 6 (AFP) - A small New Zealand political party Tuesday
exposed a fish farm company developing genetically engineered salmon which
grow faster and bigger than other salmon.
But the company, New Zealand King Salmon, denied it was doing anything
wrong and said it was working to "preserve our clean, green image".
Green Party co-leader and member of parliament Jeanette Fitzsimons
released documents from Communications Trumps, a public relations firm
hired by King Salmon, which it said suggested keeping the trial under
Trumps warned that King Salmon's work with genetically modified salmon
could easily turn into a crisis because of the strong campaign against
"Whatever protest is made, we can be certain that television and other
media will be extremely interested and will demand access to the
The paper said the company's messages about its research and objectives
must be clear, and clarify issues including safety, environmental
protections and animal welfare.
"Issues such as deformities, lumps on heads etc. should not be mentioned
at any point to anyone outside -- comments about those would create
ghastly Frankenstein images and would be whipped up into a frenzy by
King Salmon operations and contracts manager Mark Gillard said claims by
the Green Party that it was an experiment gone wrong were "completely
He said the salmon involved in the trial looked "perfectly normal," with
the only difference being that they grew faster and bigger than other
Gillard said the trial involved taking a chinook salmon gene, rearranging
it and introducing it into a chinook salmon so that the fish had two of
the genes, which promoted growth.
He said the company was closely monitoring the fish, which were kept in
separate containers at its facility south of here.
"We're concerned about risks too. We want to preserve our clean, green
image," he said
Gillard said the experimental fish he had seen were growing fast and
He said there was nothing secret about the firm's work, which had been
known about in the scientific community and the salmon farming industry,
and had been mentioned in overseas publications.
The trial, which started about four years ago, was still in its very early
stages and was unlikely to be applied commercially for at least 10 years,
Fitzsimons said she was horrified at the extent of the secrecy surrounding
the trial, and worried about risks to health and the environment.
"Because of New Zealand's lax laws on genetic engineering, the company has
managed to carry on this work for several years with official knowledge
and consent, but with no public hearing or debate whatsoever," she said.
She said little was known about the health risks of eating
genetically-engineered salmon, and there was a danger that if they escaped
into the wild they would cross-breed with wild salmon.
New Zealand King Salmon is the country's largest salmon producer, with an
80 percent share of the New Zealand industry.
It rears pacific king salmon from smolt, growing them in sea cages in the
Marlborough Sounds and processing them in Nelson.
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