Camelina vs. canola: Which GMO crop offers more sustainable source of omega-3 fish oils?


Field trials of a plant genetically modified to produce omega-3 normally sourced from fish oil have shown that it can be successfully grown in the UK, Canada and the United States.

The GM strain of Camelina sativa, a relative of oil seed rape, was developed at the Rothamsted Institute in Hertfordshire by adding biosynthetic genes that enable it to produce the non‐native omega‐3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFAs) eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

[R]esearchers from Rothamsted and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences wrote that two companies had recently developed GM strains of another oil-seed plant, canola, but these differed from the Rothamsted camelina because they predominantly accumulate either EPA or DHA.

Related article:  GMOs in pipeline promise consumer-friendly traits but attacks by familiar critics abound

The GM camelina accumulates both EPA and DHA, which was “an important consideration in the commercial viability of GM camelina, compared with the above-mentioned Canola products, since it is well-established that the overall seed oil yield of camelina is lower (at ~800Kg/ha) than that observed for canola (~1000Kg/ha)”.

The authors added that if the amount of omega-3 LC-PUFAs (EPA, DPA and DHA) is calculated as a percentage of oil yield, then camelina (at 23.3% of total fatty acids) is superior to canola (11.1%).

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