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Genomics and Biology. Biotechnology and genomics.
Application of Biotechnology to Livestock

In terms of food production, the application of modern biotechnology to livestock falls into two main areas: animal production and human nutrition. Many of the applications discussed below are in the early stages of R&D and it will be a while before the same can be used for commercial application.

Fish: Fish is the staple diet for many economies and one of the major sources of revenue also. The projected increasing demand for fish suggests that GM fish may become important in both developed and developing countries. Enhanced-growth Atlantic salmon containing a growth hormone gene from Chinook salmon is likely to be the first GM animal on the food market. These fish grow 35 times faster than their non-transgenic counterparts, to reduce production time and increase food availability. At least eight other farmed fish species have been genetically modified for growth enhancement. Other fish in which genes for growth hormones have been experimentally introduced include grass carp, rainbow trout, tilapia and catfish. In all cases, the growth-hormone genes are of fish origin.

The farming of carnivorous fish species, such as trout and salmon, has led to overfishing of sand eels and capelin. To tackle this problem, research is looking into the possibility of altering the metabolism of these species by improving their digestion of carbohydrates, to enable a shift to a more plant-based diet.

Lack of cold tolerance in warm-water species such as the common carp and tilapia can lead to significant stock losses in winter seasons. Research efforts directed in the area include attempts to alter the molecular conformation of lipids, thus increasing membrane fluidity. To extend the geographical range of fish farming, an antifreeze gene from one fish species is transferred to other species which leads to development of the required characteristic. Although freeze-resistant strains of Atlantic salmon have been produced, the level of antifreeze protein secreted by the salmon was insufficient to have a significant impact on the freezing point of blood.

The issues concerned in the identification of hazards and the assessment of risks that could be associated with the release of GM fish are still being addressed at various levels. One of these aspects involves the production of sterile GM fish to minimize the environmental risk of releasing them into wild populations and leading to possible contamination of organic wild life.

Fish farming scene is going to be significantly changes as more and more research efforts succeed in developing new technologies for increasing the productivity. This is also expected to result in excellent commercial application for developing as well as developed countries. On the one hand research in the field is expected to lead to serious revenue gains for various coastal countries and also give an opportunity to developed countries to devote research for enhancing the quality of fisheries for various purposes.


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