Genetically Modified Sterile Salmon - Risk Assessment of Field Trials
Report no: 2023:20
VKM has assessed the risk to biodiversity in Norway in relation to the release of 303 genetically modified farmed salmon for use in field trials.
The Norwegian Environment Agency commissioned this risk assessment.
Gene flow from escaped farmed salmon to wild salmon poses a problem to the wild salmon populations in Norway. To address this issue, the Institute of Marine Research has developed a salmon that is designed to be sterile, by using the genome editing technique CRISPR.
VKM has assessed whether the field trial release of 303 genetically modified farmed salmon and 485 control salmon could have potential negative impacts on biodiversity in Norway. According to the application, the fish will be kept in sea cages, and VKM has assessed the risk they pose both in the cages and in case of their escape from these.
VKM concludes that, based on the documentation in the application, there is insufficient proof of sterility in all of the 303 genetically modified salmon and likewise, a possibility that an unknown number of the 485 fertile controls may carry a mutated allele that leads to sterility. In a worst-case scenario these alleles could be introduced to wild salmon populations, should the salmon escape from the net pens.
VKM’s risk assessment will be part of the knowledge base the Environmental Agency will use in their final evaluation of the application.
The risk assessment has been approved by an interdisciplinary approval group and will be published on October 6th, 2023.