British firm gets go-ahead for planting genetically modified omega-3 seeds

Rothamsted Research in Hertfordshire, headed by Irishman, will start trials, likely to be controversial, in coming weeks

The principal ambition of the trials is to grow an omega-3-rich plant that can be used to feed farmed fish

The principal ambition of the trials is to grow an omega-3-rich plant that can be used to feed farmed fish

 

Permission has been granted by the British department of environment, food and rural affairs for the planting of a genetically modified plant that produces seeds rich in omega-3 oils.

The trials of the GM-modified camelina sativa plant at Rothamsted Research in Hertfordshire, which is headed by the Co Monaghan-born Dr Maurice Moloney, will start in the coming weeks and run until 2017.

Conditions have been imposed to ensure the trials are conducted safely, Defra said last night, adding that the plants will not be allowed to enter the food or feed chain. However, the trials are still likely cause controversy.

The first seeds – which have been altered by being spliced with genes responsible for the manufacture of the rich omega-3 oils – will be planted in May and the crop will be harvested in August.

Omega-3 fatty acids are credited with lowering the risk of heart disease, though the oils are not, in fact, produced by fish, but rather by a microscopic marine algae that is eaten by fish.

The principal ambition of the trials is to grow an omega-3-rich plant that can be used to feed farmed fish, who currently get fish meal.

Scientists in Rothamsted have copied the genes from the algae and then spliced them into the Camelina sativa, which is also known as “false flax”. If successful, the crop could be used in other foods, such as margarine.