In 2003 glow in the dark fish, created from Zebra Danios, joined the ranks of altered or man-made aquarium fish. Just as the painted, dyed, and man-made hybrid fish before them, they quickly became popular among consumers eager for something new and different.
Now Taiwan's Council of Agriculture revealed that it has successfully bred transgenic Convict cichlids (Amatitlania nigrofasciata) and Angelfish (Pterophyllum scalare). These two new breeds of glowing fish are expected to hit the market in 2012.
How It Started
It started off innocently enough when a professor at National Taiwan University extracted a fluorescent protein from a jellyfish and inserted it into the genome of a zebrafish. He was hoping to make the organs of the zebrafish easier to see when he studied them, but to his amazement, the entire fish began glowing.
Later he presented a slide of his glowing fish at a conference, where it captured the interest of a fish produce company. Seeing its value in the fish sales market, they agreed to fund the professor’s experiments in exchange for use of his techniques. The rest, as they say, is history.
The glowing fish, named TK-1 by its creator, soon was being sold in the Asian market. By early 2004, sales had expanded to the United States. Not everyone is in favor of marketing the fish, and considerable debate is raging over the ethics and safety of marketing genetically altered fish.
The FDA has stated that the genetically engineered fish are no more threat to the environment than unaltered fish, and therefore do not warrant regulation. California wasn't about to let the matter pass, and promptly chose to block sales of glow in the dark fish. Canada, Australia, and Europe also have banned the fish.
The primary arguments against the fish are environmental and ethical concerns. There is fear that if genetically altered fish were released into local waterways they could harm the environment, or pets might consume them and suffer side effects.
Ethical concerns are just as great. Many feel that selling genetic alerted fish is not only ethically wrong, but it sends the wrong message to children. Others feel that any alteration of a living creature is an abuse of the power we have over life and consider it nothing short of biological pollution. Still others express concerns that if glowing fish becomes popular, what will be next - glow in the dark cats and dogs? Where will the line be drawn?
Meanwhile, proponents say the fish is completely safe, and is an attractive alternative to keeping colorful, but more expensive and difficult to care for, saltwater fish. They site reports showing that no zebrafish, which are used to create the glow in the dark fish, have been found in non-native waters.
Yorktown Technologies, who is marketing GloFish®, has gone so far as to say that sales of the fish will help in the fight against pollution.