Environmental risks associated with the production of transgenic salmon

Advisory reports | 24.11.2003 | 031124-01

COGEM has published this advisory report due to the advancing technological developments with respect to genetic modifications, advanced plans for the introduction of transgenic salmon onto the American market and the societal discussion within Europe concerning this. In this advisory report the possible risks for the environment of rearing transgenic salmon have been considered against the current practice of salmon rearing. This means that the possible environmental risks associated with intensive fish farming have not been included in the considerations. COGEM is of the opinion that based on the current data it is impossible to unequivocally state the situations in which the environmental risks are negligible. In view of the large scientific uncertainty, COGEM calls for as much restraint as possible. On the other hand COGEM is of the opinion that on the basis of scientific arguments it cannot be stated in advance that the rearing of genetically modified salmon will always result in unacceptable environmental risks. If the rearing takes place on land with extensive containment measures or if it can be demonstrated that the gene inserted has no associated additional risks compared to the rearing of non-transgenic salmon then the foreseeable environmental risks of transgenic salmon rearing appear to be small. At the very least, COGEM recommends the adoption of a case-by-case approach. For each case this should include an extensive environmental risk analysis, based on the specific circumstances. COGEM points out that the present European and national legislation cannot prevent the cross border consequences of transgenic salmon rearing for the environment. COGEM also highlights the fact that Dutch legislation concerning the ethical and societal considerations of genetic modification in animals does not apply to the introduction of salmon products to the Dutch market. With respect to this it should be noted that following the introduction of transgenic salmon to the American market, the chance that cross border consequences of transgenic salmon in the European or Dutch environment could occur, or that transgenic salmon products could appear on the Dutch market within 5 to 10 years is realistic under the present circumstances.

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