A genetically-modified plant that produces seeds containing fish oils is set to be grown in crop-fields in the U.K. soon. The oils could provide feed for farmed fish but it can also be used as a health supplement in human foods. Fish oils – specifically ‘omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids’ – can cut the risk of cardiovascular disease and are a popular food supplement.
The fish oils that benefit the health of both fish and humans are called EPA (Eicosa-pentaenoic acid) and DHA (Docosa-hexaenoic acid). Both EPA and DHA are not produced by fish themselves, instead they accumulates in body when a fish feeds on marine microbes like algae. Scientists recognized up to seven genes from algae that produce the fish oils and transplanted them into oil seed plants called camelina.
This GM plant has been developed by Rothamsted Research in Hertfordshire, England, in about 15 years. Now researchers are hopeful to get permission for field trials by March, which will be the first in the world to use plants to grow the special oils. Environment minister of U. K. will make the final decision after public consultations and advice from experts. Europe continues to close its doors to GM crops.
[Credit – Guardian Newspapers Limited]