In a few short weeks the first Omega-3 enriched crops will be harvested in Rothamsted Research, in England. This ground-breaking trial is the first of its kind as the crops are being grown outdoors, rather than in greenhouses, and have been genetically modified.
The plant, which is a crop of Camelina – or False Flax – has been implanted with genes which produce Omega-3 in order that the seeds will be rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, something usually found in fish. Should the trial be a success, there is talk of feeding the crops to fish to boost their Omega-3 content, turning it into a supplement, or adding it to products such as oils and yoghurts.
Head of this GM project is Professor Jonathan Napier, who explains why this trial is so important: “Fish get omega 3 from their diet when they swim in the sea but when you put them in a cage they can’t do that and you have to feed them smaller fish, otherwise fish would have no more Omega-3 in them than chicken.”
As the Professor said, it is difficult for farmed fish to get sufficient Omega-3 in their diet, as they do not have access to the necessary algae meaning that even more fish have to be captured in order for the bigger fish to eat them and absorb their Omega-3. As the Camelina has genes that have been duplicated from this algae, when fed to bigger farm fish it cuts out the needs for smaller fish to be taken from the ocean.
“The problem is that there aren’t plenty of fish in the sea. One million tons of fish for oil is removed from the seas every year and most of that goes into fish farming through fishmeal. It’s simply unsustainable.”
On the face of it, this trial seem good, however there are concerns that Omega-3 produced by GM crops is not necessarily safe for human consumption. Liz O’Neill, the director of GM Freeze stated: “The hazards are enormous.”
This complex trial involves adjusting seven different genes in the plant in order to produce Omega-3, making it the “most sophisticated GM experiment anywhere in the world,” according to Professor Napier.
At the end of this month, the crop will be harvested and the seeds removed from the pods. They will then undergo oil extraction and testing to check both that Omega-3 has been produced and that the quantity is good enough to warrant continuing. The results of which should be available by the time the year draws to a close.
Professor Napier reiterates, “This a taxpayer funded study so it is important that the taxpayers know what we are up to.”
Next year, a second trail of twice the size is expected to arise, the last trail before the plants will be grown on a commercial scale. That is, if enough Omega-3 is produced, of course.
While these crops are the first of their kind and will help tackle overfishing, they are genetically engineered with associated concerns. “We are what we eat”
Nuique Omega 3 however is 100% natural and fully stustainable, as it is taken straight from a natures natural source – Algae.
Algae derived Omega-3 is both sustainable and environmentally-friendly. It is vegan approved as it is pure and unaltered. The algae used in the manufacture of Nuique grows naturally, is pollution free and is certainly not genetically modified.
Should GM produce be added to our everyday food … added to items such as cooking oil, yoghurts … even baby food? Leave a comment below and tell us what you think.