Rothamsted Research given the green light to carry out 'omega-3 GM field trial'

Rapidly expanding modern industry is seeking new omega-3 sources (Photo: Camelina seeds)
Rapidly expanding modern industry is seeking new omega-3 sources (Photo: Camelina seeds)

Rothamsted Research has been granted permission by Defra to carry out a GM field trial looking into growing omega-3 on the Rothamsted Farm in 2016 and 2017.

The trial will test whether GM Camelina sativa plants are able to make significant quantities of omega-3 fatty acids in the seed of the plant under field conditions.

The trial is part of the ongoing strategic programme of research at Rothamsted.

Omega-3 has been shown to be beneficial for human health and contribute to protection against coronary heart diseases (CHD).

The primary dietary sources of these fatty acids are marine fish either wild stocks or farmed fish (aquaculture).

Fish like humans do not produce these oils but rather they accumulate them through their diet in the wild or through fishmeal and fish oil in farmed fish.

Around 80 percent of all fish oil is consumed by the aquaculture sector and this rapidly expanding modern industry is seeking new omega-3 sources to ensure its production practices remain sustainable and nurture the essential aquatic food web.

One potential approach towards flexible and sustainable supply of omega-3 is to engineer a crop plant with the capacity to synthesise these fatty acids in seeds.

Rothamsted Research have over the years developed genetically engineered Camelina plants that can successfully produce omega-3 in the glass house and in the field.

Scientists have been testing in the laboratory and the glasshouses whether it is possible to develop GM plants that can produce omega-3.

This potentially could ensure optimal use of the GM crop as a source of the key components required for ultimately sustainable fish production.

The controlled experiment will be carried out at Rothamsted Research and sowing of Camelina seeds will take place in May this year.

The plants will be harvested August/September 2016, and a small amount of seed will be used to analyse the oil content, with all the rest of the seed and plant material will be destroyed according to the consents conditions.

The GM inspectorate of the Food and Environment Research Agency will be carrying out regular inspections.