Kyoto firm puts genome-edited tiger puffer on the table

Courtesy of Regional Fish Institute Ltd.
A 2-year-old genome-edited tiger puffer, top, and a conventional fish of the same species

An application seeking approval to use a gene-edited tiger puffer fish as food was submitted Friday to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.

Kyoto-based start-up Regional Fish Institute Ltd. submitted the application for a tiger puffer in which genes are efficiently modified with gene-editing technology.

At a meeting of the ministry’s expert panel held Friday, the panel confirmed that the puffer fish does not have any safety problems. The company plans to take the fish to market.

It is the third application for a gene-edited food in Japan, following those for tomatoes and red sea bream. It was also the second application made by this company.

This kind of tiger puffer was developed by a team of researchers led by Kyoto University.

Genes in the fish that control appetite are knocked out by the gene-editing technology, boosting their appetite and the speed at which they gain weight.

The gene-edited fish become 1.9 times heavier than the same species grown conventionally in the same farming period.

This means they can be shipped in shorter periods than ordinary tiger puffers, which need more than two years to grow and thus offer a commercial advantage.

The company branded the gene-edited fish “22-seiki fugu” (puffer fish of the 22nd century) and began a crowdfunding campaign online Friday to finance commercialization of products.

The company will launch trial sales of dishes using the fish, such as sashimi, which donors to the campaign can reserve.

The reserved products will be delivered from late November.