Genetically Modified Organism: Glowfish

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GloFish were originally zebrafish, a tropical fish from the Minnow family. They originate in rivers of Himalayas and Eastern India. Zebrafish measure three centimeters long and were name for their distinct blue stripes on the side of their bodies.

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In 1999, Zebrafish were genetically modified with fluorescent by Scientist at the National Singapore University. Dr. Zhiyuan Gong and his colleagues were working with a gene that encodes the green fluorescent protein (GFP), originally extracted from a jellyfish, that naturally produced bright green fluorescence (“StateMaster – Encyclopedia: Glofish”). They inserted the gene into a zebrafish embryo, allowing it to integrate into the zebrafish’s genome, which caused the fish to be brightly fluorescent under both natural white light and ultraviolet light.

GloFish were intentionally developed to help fight pollution in water. The long-term goal for the scientists was to detect toxins in water so that polluted waterways could be identified and the local communities using those waterways could be protected. “The first step was to make them fluoresce all the time,” explains Alan Blake, co-founder and CEO of Texas-based Yorktown Technologies, which introduced GloFish to the home aquarium market in 2003. The fluorescing color in the fish, will signal that water is contaminated. A gene is inserted in one zebra fish embryo one time, and the fluorescence trait is then carried from generation to generation through traditional breeding. One of many advantages of using GloFish is that, they produce hundreds of offspring and grow at an extremely fast rate. Providing Scientists countless of GloFish to conduct their studies.

Because of their neon colors, GloFish became the first genetically modified animal to be commercialized. They became a very popular pet in the fish market across the United States. The fish appear bright under normal white light and fluoresce brilliantly under a blue light. They are available in six colors such as; Starfire Red, Electric Green, Sunburst Orange, Cosmic Blue, Galactic Purple, and Moonrise Pink (“StateMaster – Encyclopedia: Glofish”). Each GloFish inherits its unique color directly from its parents, maintains the color throughout its life, and passes the color along to its offspring. It has been reviewed by many state agencies (Florida division of agriculture), they have concluded that fluorescent fish are safe for the environment. GloFish are approved for human use by the U.S. food and drug administration (“GMO GloFish.”). Despite the GloFish being tested as safe, California along with Canada and Europe has used its Environmental Quality Act to ban sale of GloFish.

One con of creating the GloFish, is that they cannot survive in North American waters. “Their non-GloFish equivalents have not established in the wild, and it is reasonable to assume that a bright, fluorescent equivalent would have even less of a chance of survival,” says Craig A. Watson, director of the Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory at the University of Florida. Overall the GloFish was genetically modified to help protect the environment. It was a very creative and easy genetically modification, due to the fish being able to continue to pass off the trait in their genes for generations. To this day, there are no proven history of serious damage cause by the GloFish. In conclusion, genetically modifying organisms should only be used to help improve the environment. whether it be for food or medically.

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