Genetically modified glow-in-the-dark Electric Green Tetra fish pose a risk to non-GMO native species and have raised concerns with environmental advocacy groups, reports the Washington Post.
The glowing neon fish species was developed at Yorktown Technologies by combining black tetra fish and DNA extracted from a glow-in-the-dark coral species. It has been on the market since February, following the Yorktown genetically modified GloFish, which was introduced to the pet fish market in 2003. The fish glow under a black light due to the fluorescent coral gene.
What makes the newest glowing fish species of particular concern to environmentalists is that unlike its predecessor, the black tetra can survive in cooler U.S. waters where it could have a negative impact on already fragile aquatic ecosystems. Of particular concern are waters in South Florida where as many as 30 types of nonnative fish are already an issue for native species.
The Washington Post reports that Barry Chernoff, a freshwater fish biologist and chair of the environmental studies program at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut is concerned that the genetically modified fish could interbreed with similar species in the wild, spreading the fluorescent coral gene. “Pet” fish are often let loose into fresh waters by owners who can no longer care for them and can breed rapidly.
Despite no large populations of the GMO fish yet discovered in the wild, the Center for Food Safety filed a lawsuit against the FDA in 2004, arguing that the modified fish should be government regulated particularly because of the risks of them entering the food chain once in the wild. A 2011 study found largemouth bass and mosquito fish routinely preyed on twice as many red GloFish as their unmodified zebra fish cousins.
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