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Gene-edited pufferfish and sea bream hit menus in Japan

seafoodsource.com -- Jul 23
Japan-based Regional Fish Institute is now selling gene-edited pufferfish to the public – one of the first times a gene-edited seafood product was offered over-the-counter to Japanese consumers.

The company’s online store has been offering the product since it gained government approval in 2021. The sale of gene-edited fish is part of a wider trend in Japan toward the new technology.

Japan is not just allowing gene-editing, it is also funding it. In a 27 June press release, Regional Fish Institute announced that it had – along with Kyoto University and Tokyo Marine University – been awarded a government subsidy of JPY 97.5 million (USD 705,000, EUR 690,000) for research as a “year-2022 growth-type small and medium enterprise R&D support project.” The company will use the money to develop gene-edited tilapia and vannamei shrimp.

Japan has followed the lead of the U.S.A. and Canada in approving the sale of gene-edited foods with limited safety review, in contrast to the procedure for transgenic foods. In the former, an existing gene is deleted, or its effect reduced, while in the latter, new genetic material is introduced from another species. Transgenic foods pose a risk of introducing allergens into food products, while gene-edited foods contain no new genes, but rather deletion or the targeted mutation of a gene. It is also considered that changes of this scale sometimes occur randomly within the range of typical natural mutations.

In 2019, an advisory panel to Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare recommended allowing gene-edited foodstuffs to be sold to consumers without safety evaluations, opening up new opportunities for such developments.

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