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Defra approves field trials of GM fish oil plants

Scientists at Rothamsted Research have been given the go ahead to carry out a field trial with genetically modified (GM) camelina plants.

Olivia   Midgley

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Olivia   Midgley
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The trial, based at the facility’s test field in Harpenden, Hertfordshire, will assess whether GM Camelina sativa plants are able to make significant quantities of omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFAs) and astaxanthin in the seed of the plant.

 

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

 

The oils have been shown to benefit human health and help protect against coronary heart diseases.

 

Researchers have been working on the project in the laboratory for the last 15 years in order to find out if plants can produce the fatty acids in a more ‘sustainable way’.

 

They believe one day the GM oils could be found on the shelves of high street health shops and in margarine.

 

Professor Johnathan Napier, lead scientist of the project at Rothamsted Research, said: "We used synthetic gene sequences involved in the biosynthesis of omega-3 LC-PUFAs that have been optimised in order to be functional in Camelina plants.

 

"These synthetic sequences are based on the sequence of genes found in photosynthetic marine organisms, and other lower eukaryote species such as mosses and oomycetes.”

 

The camelina seeds will be sown in May and the plants will be harvested around August/September.

 

A small amount of seed will be used to analyse the oil content. All the rest of the seed and plant material will be destroyed according to the consent’s conditions.

 

The GM inspectorate of the Animal Health and Plant Agency (AHPA) will be carrying out regular inspections.

 


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