- EDINBURGH, July 29 (Reuters)
- Environmental groups reacted angrily on Thursday to news Britain had
allowed secret experiments in Scotland to create genetically modified salmon
that grew up to four times faster than normal.
- Details of the so-called "Franken-fish" experiments
emerged for the first time late on Wednesday when Scottish Secretary John
Reid told the House of Commons thousands of fish were given an extra gene
to make them grow faster.
- Reid said the experiment took place three years ago in
a confined, land-based area to prevent the fish from escaping into the
wild and was ended after a year.
- "Approximately 50 of the fish grew at four times
the normal rate, with no sign of abnormalities. The project was terminated
after approximately a year, and all the fish were destroyed," Reid
- But the admission fuelled a growing controversy in Britain
about all things genetically modified (GM). While the technology is widespread
in the United States, many European consumers are uneasy and environmentalists
say too little is known about the potential effects on human health or
the environment itself.
- "Now it's the Franken-fish," the Daily Mail
tabloid said on Thursday, echoing the term "Frankenstein foods"
often used by British newspapers to describe GM food.
- Although the tests were authorised under the previous
government of John Major, environmental campaigners said Prime Minister
Tony Blair's government has not come clean on all GM testing for both crops
- "This government has a pro-GM engineering agenda,
and is not the umpire that it pretends to be on the issue," said Doug
Parr, campaign centre director for Greenpeace in London.
- "This whole experiment seems to have been done fairly
quietly and with no public debate. That is clearly not the way most people
want to go," Parr told Reuters.
- Greenpeace landed itself in legal trouble this week when
its executive director, Lord Melchett, was arrested on charges connected
with the destruction of GM crops in a field.
- Three of seven farms growing experimental GM crops in
Britain have been damaged or destroyed in the past eight weeks as campaigners
step up efforts to end the trials.