Harpenden scientists seek fish oil alternatives with GM crop
- Credit: Sarah Usher/Rothamsted Research
A Harpenden research centre has applied for permission to carry out a genetically modified field trial with plants engineered to produce oils which contribute to protection against coronary heart disease.
Rothamsted Research has submitted its request to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) for the go-ahead to carry out the trials on its farm from this year until 2017.
Scientists have developed Camelina plants that accumulate omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFAs) in their seeds.
They now want to carry out trials to evaluate the performance of that trait in the field.
The LC-PUFAs have been shown to be beneficial to human health.
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The primary dietary sources of these fatty acids are fish – either wild or farmed.
Like humans, fish do not produce these oils but accumulate them through their diet in the wild, or through fishmeal in farmed fish.
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About 80 per cent of all fish oil is consumed by the aquaculture sector, and this rapidly expanding industry is seeking new omega-3 LC-PUFAs as sources to ensure its production is sustainable.
Professor Martin Parry, acting director at Rothamsted, said: “It will be a significant step forward if we are granted permission to perform a controlled experiment.
“We will be able to assess in real environmental conditions the potential of contributing a more sustainable and affordable alternative way of providing fish oil.”