THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
September 30, 2021 at 07:00 JST
A bio-tech enterprise affiliated with Kyoto University is now accepting orders for genetically manipulated farmed red sea bream that boast thicker flesh compared with ordinary farmed ones.
Regional Fish Institute Ltd. started accepting orders on a crowdfunding site Sept. 17 for fatter sea bream treated by genome editing to modify a specific gene.
Initially, sales are restricted to 190 customers with deliveries expected to start in October. The production process is explained in detail with each purchase.
The Regional Fish Institute registered commercialization of its sea bream as “genome-edited food” with the government on Sept. 17. On the same day, health ministry concluded no safety examinations were necessary.
Unless foreign genes from different creatures are introduced into genome-processed items, as is the case with genetic recombination, no safety checks are carried out. This is because the method is essentially no different from traditional selective breeding methods to create improved varieties.
The company's sea bream is the first genome-edited animal product to be marketed in Japan. It followed on the heels of genome-edited tomatoes with five times the amount of gamma-aminobutyric acid, a substance believed to reduce high blood pressure.
The tomatoes were registered for commercialization with the government last December.
The fleshier fish variant was developed by Kyoto University and Kindai University by rendering a gene called myostatin that controls muscle growth non-functional.
The engineered variety has 1.2 times more flesh on average compared with a conventionally farmed fish. The technology is viewed as a way to help improve the efficiency of fish farming.
Regional Fish Institute said it hopes to sell its sea bream online in the future. When it does, it will label them as genome-edited products.
Genome editing is aimed at destroying or introducing certain genes. The technology is applied in the attempts to develop rice and other plant varieties to increase harvest yields.
Producers of genome-edited foodstuffs that do not involve introduction of foreign genes are allowed to begin sales without safety examinations. They are required only to register their products with the government on a voluntary basis.
Specifying facts on the genome-editing process on labels is also not obligatory for shipping.
(This article was written by Mirei Jinguji and Shigeko Segawa.)
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