The buzz in mainstream media this week is not without its share of misinformation, but the fact remains that genetically modified freshwater Angelfish, Pterophyllum scalare, have once again grabbed the attention of both the popular press and aquarists with their debut at the 2012 Taiwan International Aquarium Expo. With headlines such as “Pink Angel Delight: Genetically-engineered angelfish that glow in the dark go on display in Taiwan” (details suggest these are not actually glow-in-the-dark) and “World’s first pink fluorescent fish” (we might argue that the “red” form of GloFish® Zebra Danio was the first fluorescent pink fish), there is no shortage of dazzling commentary. Mainstream media largely glossed over the Flourescent Pink Convict Cichlids (Archocentrus nigrofasciatus).
The source of the genetics for the “pink protien” behind this creation? Chen Ming-chyuan, associate professor at National Kaohsiung Marine University, discovered it within “acropora corals growing near Taiwan”, according to Taipei Times reporters Of course, it bears remembering that these are not the first genetically modified angelfish to be produced using genes from Cnidarians; as just one example, consider this video uploaded to youtube in 2010:
With genetically modified organisms outlawed in several countries and at least one state here in the US (eg. you can’t have GloFish® in California), you might speculate why companies continue to pursue this line of product development. Then again, reading this subheadline might tell you exactly why – “NEW BREED:Researchers from Jy Lin Trading, National Ocean University and Academia Sinica developed the fish, and were immediately offered NT$100,000 for one”. $100,000 New Taiwan Dollars translates to approximately $3440 USD at the moment – no small change for a fish like that. Given the purported level of difficulty in producing these fish might justify the price. One source reported that initially, only 1 in 10,0000 angelfish eggs were successfully modified at first; that rate has been refined now to 1 in 100. “Breeding” of these fish could certainly ease production and lower costs, although you might already assume that breeding would be prohibited by patents as it is with GloFish®.
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