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Gene Technology Act could streamline aquaculture breeding

The Norwegian Biotechnology Advisory Board (NBAB) has introduced the Gene Technology Act – Invitation to Public Debate, for classifying, controlling and regulating the development of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) within Scandinavia.

The 15 members of the NBAB unanimously proposed that there be a three-tier approvals system and process for the different gene-editing programs. The deadline for comments is May 2018.          
It’s widely hoped that if the new system is adopted for the seafood industry, various gene-altering projects already underway in Norway could be given speedy regulatory approval.

The three levels are actually four because there’s a Level 0 which doesn’t require regulation, as it is stated as “exempted”. That’s for changes that are temporary and simultaneously non-heritable.

Then there’s Level One: Changes that exist or can arise naturally, and can be achieved using conventional breeding methods. At this level there is an obligation to notify the authorities - and to receive confirmation of receipt of the notification.

Level Two is for “other species-specific genetic changes – which involves “expedited assessment and approval.”

Level Three, the top level, is for genetic changes involving crossing of species barriers or involving synthetic (or artificial) DNA sequences. This level requires a standard assessment and appraisal as per the current system.

Among the genetic engineering projects taking place in Norway’s salmon sector is the gene editing technology CRISPR Cas-9 used to produce sterile salmon, resistant to the Infectious Salmon Anaemia disease (ISA) and the virus that causes it.         

NBAB notes that this gene-editing technique and technology combine to permit targeted genetic alterations such as deleting, substituting or adding DNA, “or switching genes on or off without making any changes to the (animal’s) genetic sequence.”

Dr. Anna Wargelius in the molecular biology section of the Institute of Marine Research (IMR) in Bergen is stated to be a strong advocate for gene-editing, noting that how far and how fast that particular technology has advanced already makes the current legislation, rules and approvals system seem outdated and lagging behind the times.

For more information visit: www.bioteknologiradet.no/genteknologiloven.

April 9, 2018  By Quentin Dodd

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