GM crops in fish oils breakthrough
SCIENTISTS at Rothamsted Research have produced the first field crop of oilseed plants genetically engineered to make omega-3 fish oils in their seeds.
In a landmark paper published last month in the journal Metabolic Engineering Communications, the researchers announced the first year results of the field-scale trial of the GM Camelina oilseed plants.
Omega-3 fish oils - specifically long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega-3 LC-PUFA) eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) - are acknowledged by the medical community to be beneficial components of the human diet.
The primary dietary sources of EPA and DHA are marine fish, either wild or farmed.
Fish, like humans, accumulate the omega-3 fish oils by feeding on other organisms in the marine food chain or, in the case of farmed fish, through fishmeal and fish oil in feed. As the production of fish through aquaculture increases so does the need to find alternative sources of omega-3 fish oils.
Rothamsted’s new data - which demonstrate that a crop plant can be engineered to synthesise these beneficial fatty acids in seeds - provide hope for sustainable land-based sources of omega-3 fish oils.
Although previous experiments in glass- houses had given positive indications for the performance of this trait, this trial demonstrated the stability of the trait and the ability of the GM Camelina plants to synthesise useful quantities of fish oils without any negative effects on yield.
Dr Olga Sayanova, the senior Rothamsted researcher who developed the GM Camelina plants, said: ‘Finding a land-based source of feedstocks containing omega-3 fish oils has long been an urgent priority for truly sustainable aquaculture.
‘Our results give hope that oilseed crops grown on land can contribute to improving the sustainability of the fish farming industry and the marine environment in the future.’
Above: Healthy oils