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Genetically Modified Fish a Threat to Natural Species?

Artist's Rendering. iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A species of bright neon green pet fish that were created by scientists could threaten native fish species off of Florida’s coasts, according to scientists.

The Electric Green Tetra, part of a line of GloFish created by scientists at Yorktown Technologies, was created when black tetra fish were combined with genetic material from coral, according to a report in today’s Washington Post. The report raises the possibility that the fish could be damaging to other species if let loose in American waters.

The fish, which becomes fluorescent when placed under a black light, was developed for use in home aquariums, according to the GloFish website.

But some biologists and food scientists, like those at the Center for Food Safety, are worried the fish will make it into the wild and disrupt natural biodiversity.

“We feel that the use of GE [genetic engineering] for wild animals — and these are essentially wild animals, they are not domesticated, they’re wild, they can escape, people throw them back into the wild — can have long-running impacts that can be pretty scary. GE invasive species have caused a lot of problems in this country. We want to be careful about contributing to those issues,” CFS attorney Peter Jenkins told ABC News today.

GloFish were the subject of a lawsuit filed by Center for Food Safety against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2004. The CFS argued that the genetically-modified fish should be regulated by the government, Jenkins said.

Yorktown Technologies, maker of the fish, argues that the green fish would not become an invasive species if released into the wild.

“We have submitted detailed information regarding our fish to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration… (The FDA) found no evidence that our fluorescent fish pose any more threat to the environment than their non-fluorescent counterparts,” Yorktown’s website for GloFish reads.

Jenkins said that he hopes the FDA will take note of the Washington Post report on GloFish, in addition to websites like GlowingSushi.com, which promotes the consumption of GloFish in order to raise awareness that they are dangerous.

“We think regulatory agencies aren’t doing their job,” Jenkins said today. “GE fish are generally banned entirely for pet use in Canada, California, and Europe, so the FDA seems to be taking a very hands-off approach.”

The FDA said in an email that GloFish are the only genetically engineered product sold commercially in the United States, and that they are not intended as a food product.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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