SUMMARY CONFERENCE 4 How appropriate are currently available biotechnologies for the fishery sector in developing countries ?
The Summary Documents provide a synopsis of the main arguments and concerns discussed during the conference.
I. Summary Document (Short Version) - Conference 4
For this conference, on the appropriateness of currently available
biotechnologies for the fishery sector in developing countries, fewer Forum
members registered (149) and fewer messages (26) were posted than in the
three previous sector-specific conference (crops, forestry and animals
respectively). The conference ran from 1 August to 8 October 2000. The
messages were sent by 16 individuals (11% of those registered) in 12
different countries and 42% came from participants living in developing
The Background Document for the conference described the wide range of
biotechnologies currently available for the fishery sector, including the
use of protein or DNA markers, triploidisation, sex-reversal, hybridisation,
selective breeding, freezing of male gametes, genetic modification of fish
and, finally, DNA-based technologies for disease diagnosis and vaccine
development. It also considered their potential application in three main
areas - in fishery management, aquaculture and for conservation - and gave
an outline of factors that might influence their appropriatness in
developing countries. Unfortunately, discussion did not cover the wide range
of potential topics and possibilities offered by the theme of the
conference. Instead, participants focused to a large degree on a single
biotechnology (genetic modification) in a single main area of application
(aquaculture) and on a single factor potentially influencing its
appropriateness (its environmental impact).
The major topic of the conference was thus the potential ecological risk or
environmental impact of genetically modified (GM) fish. Discussions on this
topic touched on four main subjects:
a) The potential environmental impact of domesticated GM fish escaping into
an ecosystem where the wild species already exists:
Potential scenarios, such as where the transgene increases mating success of
GM fish but reduces the viability of offspring produced, were discussed.
b) The potential environmental impact of growing GM fish where the wild
species does not exist:
A potential example given was the production of GM carp in Israel, which has
no native carp population. Participants discussed the environmental
implications of GM fish escaping in such situations and of introducing
exotic non-native fish species from one country to another (such as the
grass carp from Asia to the United States).
c) Whether triploidisation (and thus sterilisation) of the GM fish could
reduce the potential ecological risks:
Some of the points discussed included how efficient triploidisation was as a
tool for fish sterilisation; the combination of triploidisation with
sex-reversal and specific problems related to the application of
triploidisation to aquaculture in developing countries.
d) Biosafety in developing countries:
Participants considered some of the difficulties of establishing and
implementing risk assessment programmes in developing countries.
Apart from their potential environmental impact, participants also discussed
the real likelihood of GM fish being produced commercially in developing
countries in the near future as well as the true magnitude of the
differences between GM and non-GM fish.
Although the biotechnology of genetic modification dominated discussions in
the conference, some participants did consider other biotechnologies and
other aspects of aquaculture in developing countries. In these messages,
topics such as the merits of genetic modification versus other
biotechnologies or investments in aquaculture management and the current
problems facing aquaculture in developing countries were addressed.
For those with access to the web, further information on what the
participants said can be got by viewing the actual messages they posted (
http://www.fao.org/biotech/logs/c4logs.htm ) or by reading the Long Version
of the Summary Document
( http://www.fao.org/biotech/logs/C4/summary.htm ).