A genetically-modified cereal crop that produces fish oil in its seeds has been grown successfully for the first time in Britain, scientists have announced.
Up to 15 percent of the oil in the seeds of the GM crop following the first year’s harvest turned out to be the long-chain omega-3 fish oil associated with a healthy diet to protect against heart disease, the researchers said.
The fish-oil crop had been genetically engineered with up to seven additional genes involved in manufacturing the omega-3 oils in marine algae, which are then eaten and accumulated in wild fish. “Fish oil” is actually a misnomer as fish cannot make omega-3 oils and farmed fish have to eat smaller, wild-caught fish to satisfy their dietary requirements.
Scientists are trying to find alternative ways of producing fish oil for the feed used by the aquaculture industry as current feeds for farmed salmon and trout are often based on unsustainable harvesting of smaller fish.
Tests showed that the fish oil produced by the GM Camelina sativa, or “false flax”, when grown in the field was just as concentrated as laboratory-grown GM plants with no loss of overall crop productivity, said Professor Johnathan Napier, who led the research project at Rothamsted Research.
“The omega-3 fish oil trait that we have developed is probably the most complex example of plant genetic engineering to be tested in the field. This is a globally-significant proof of concept and a landmark moment in the effort to develop truly sustainable sources of feed for fish farms,” Professor Napier said.
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