A method for changing the sex of prawns from female to male has been developed by an Israeli scientist, who believes it will boost yields of larger male prawns. Matthew Stock reports.
This is a female prawn... but it won't be for long. Scientists in Israel are using a method called gene silencing that changes the sex of female prawns to male. The aim is to boost farmers' yields of the faster-growing, meatier, male of the species. At Ben Gurion University, female giant freshwater prawns are carefully injected with a molecule that silences a gene, turning it into a male. These transsexual prawns can now mate with regular specimens to produce all-male offspring. (SOUNDBITE) (English) PROFESSOR AMIR SAGI FROM BEN GURION UNIVERSITY OF THE NEGEV WHO IS ALSO COFOUNDER OF ISRAEL-BASED STARTUP COMPANY ENZOOTIC, SAYING: "The advantage of this technology is that with using all male with that technology is that we do not have to use any chemicals nor any hormones and it is a non-GMO, saying that it is not genetically modifying the organism." The sex change occurs only in the generation that has been injected and does not affect subsequent offspring. The Israeli scientist's technique is now being used to help farmers in Asia. (SOUNDBITE) (English) PROFESSOR AMIR SAGI FROM BEN GURION UNIVERSITY OF THE NEGEV WHO IS ALSO COFOUNDER OF ISRAEL-BASED STARTUP COMPANY ENZOOTIC, SAYING: "All male in this species that we are referring to are growing much faster than the females so if the end user, the grower, in India or in Vietnam or in China will grow those, he will have something like 60 percent increase in its income." The team says an expert worker can inject about 2,000 prawns a day, with each individual able to produce thousands of eggs over several cycles.