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  • GM salmon  which grow twice as fast as wild fish have been developed
  • Eggs given  go-ahead in Canada while meat to be approved for sale in US
  • If they  escape from farms they could breed and wipe out wild fish
  • Imported  canned products could be in the UK within years

By  David Derbyshire

PUBLISHED: 18:15 EST, 2  December 2013 |  UPDATED: 18:15 EST, 2 December 2013

As they splash around in their tanks, they  look like any other healthy Atlantic salmon. Their eyes are bright, their skin  is gloriously silvery and their fully grown bodies exude power.

It’s only when you look closely at their  hatching dates that the alarm bells start to ring. A normal Atlantic salmon  takes 30 months to grow to maturity . . . this variety took just  16.

The majestic specimens are ‘frankenfish’ —  genetically modified salmon created in a secretive research base in the Panama  rainforest.

'Frankenfish' are genetically modified salmon created by company AquaBounty which grow at twice the rate of wild Atlantic Salmon, and are constantly hungry 

‘Frankenfish’ are genetically modified salmon created by  company AquaBounty which grow at twice the rate of wild Atlantic Salmon, and are  constantly hungry (file picture)

The salmon have been given genes from two  other species of fish to make them grow twice as fast as normal. And while most  people would baulk at the prospect, GM fish could soon be coming to a dinner  table near you.

Last week, Canadian authorities gave approval  for the commercial production of GM salmon eggs for the first time, while U.S.  food regulators are in the final stages of approving the fish for sale in  supermarkets and restaurants.

And where GM salmon lead, other animals will  follow. Plans are in place to genetically modify up to 50 other species,  including trout and the tropical white fish tilapia, for human consumption.

GM chickens, cattle, sheep and pigs won’t be  far behind.

The prospect of the first commercially  produced GM livestock has, not surprisingly, raised concerns. Even those who  support GM crop production believe the risks involved in GM animals are simply  too great.

So what is so dangerous about these  innocuous-looking fish? And could they be served in the UK soon?

GM salmon are the creation of AquaBounty, a  biotechnology company based in Massachusetts and listed on the London Stock  Market.

The firm has owned the rights to produce GM  salmon since 1996. It also produces feeds to speed up the growth and boost the  immunity of farmed shrimp.

The fish have been given two genes from other  species — a growth hormone gene from the Chinook salmon, the largest of the  Pacific salmon species, and a gene from the eel-like ocean pout which ‘switches  on’ the growth hormone.

The combination of these two genes allows the  GM salmon to keep producing a growth factor hormone — the substance that  triggers their metabolism to eat more and put on weight — all the year  round.

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