The primary goal of the project Virgin Salmon is to develop salmon without germ cells for farming. BTO has performed work to clarify IPR clarification, verified market interest and market potential, and contributed to a successful BIOTEK2021 application to the Research Council of Norway, where the project has been granted 8 million NOK, starting 1st of January 2017.
In 2014, the scientists working on the project became the first group in the world to successfully demonstrate how to produce germ cell free salmon. This was accomplished by using the gene technological tool CRISPR-Cas9 to “turn off” a chosen gene. The salmon looks like a normal salmon, but it will not become sexually mature and will therefore not be able to mate with wild salmon if it was to escape. In addition, it will not experience precocious maturation, which causes welfare problems in the salmon farming industry today.
In the time to come BTO will provide the project with market insight by talking to potential clients. BTO will also strive to obtain patents for the technology when important milestones are being reached. It is important to involve stakeholders and demonstrate transparency when developing this type of salmon, and an integrated work package for a Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) work process is included in this project.
To ensure that production of this type of salmon is realized in the future, acceptance from the consumers is crucial. Gene editing based on CRISPR technology cannot be distinguished from normal genetic variation, and several countries including Sweden, Australia and Canada excludes such changes from the classical GMOs and have adopted a product based evaluation for approval. Such aspects are important to consider when BTO plans how to approach the industry and the market If the project succeeds, it will contribute to prominent advantages for the aquaculture in the future and the society as a whole – regarding fish welfare, sustainable food production and preservation of wild salmon strains.
Stakeholders and industry are welcome to contact us with input or questions on ethical, legal and social aspects of this project that will be part of the Responsible Research & Innovation process.