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    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 countries.

    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 ).


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