HIGHTOWER: FrankenFish

I've got a fish story for you. It's about "the really big one" that got away. I'm talking about a salmon that's more than double the size of a regular one!Unfortunately, this big whopper is not a natural creature of the waters, but a freakish creature of the labs -- a genetically modified "Frankenfish." Scientists in Massachusetts have patented a process of splicing a flounder gene into the growth-hormone gene of the Salmon, causing the resulting fish to grow twice as fast and more than twice as large as normal. At first, this would seem to be a bonanza for fish farmers -- double the fish in half the time.But it's not nice to try to fool Mother Nature, and the scientists' genetically engineered supersalmon comes with a devastating flaw: Its eggs have a much lower rate of survival than their natural cousins. This is a case in which bigger definitely would not be better, for many scientists see this genetically engineered fish as a biological time bomb that can devastate wild populations of salmon and other fish.You see, domesticated fish routinely get loose from their watery pens, escaping to breed with wild species. If even a few of these Frankenfish escape, the damage could be extensive. In this case, the "oops! factor" of science comes into play, for the genetically-enhanced, supersalmon males are most attractive to females, who naturally look for size when choosing mates. It's a survival-of-the-species thing. But -- oops! -- this big stud would pass on its genes that produce inferior eggs, thus threatening the long-term existence of the very species. As a Newsday writer put it, "males engineered to be big might win the mating battle but lose the survival war ... The fish would breed themselves into oblivion."This is Jim Hightower saying ... In their avaricious rush to cash in, arrogant genetic manipulators are causing more problems than they are solving. To learn more, contact www.biotechcentury.org.

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