Changing Gender of Prawns to Benefit Farmers
October 20, 2015
Yahoo! News — Breakthrough research by a team of BGU researchers has developed a method to enhance prawn yields without resorting to genetic modification.
At the helm of the research team is Prof. Amir Sagi, a renowned endocrinologist from BGU’s Department of Life Sciences and National Institute for Biotechnology in the Negev.
“This technology,” says Prof. Sagi, “is using a cutting-edge scientific approach called temporal gene silencing through RNA interference, and the idea is that if we use this technology we can produce an all-male population that is for the benefit of the end user, the grower.”
Male prawns can grow up to 60 percent larger than females and can significantly increase income for farmers.
While this may sound alarming to those who don’t care for chemically altered food, Prof. Sagi has some reassuring words.
“The advantage of this technology,” he says, “is that we do not have to use any chemicals nor any hormones and it is a non-GMO, it is not genetically modifying the organism.”
Prawns have the ability to be both male and female. The method involves carefully injecting females of the giant freshwater prawn with a molecule that “silences” a gene. This changes the sex of a female and ensures that all her eggs hatch as males.
“All males in this species grow much faster than the females; so if the end user, the grower, in India, Vietnam or in China will grow those, he will have something like a 60 percent increase in income,” says Prof. Sagi.