Genetically modified plants yield same heart-healthy oil found in fish

Jan. 2, 2014 at 3:51 PM

HARPENDEN, England, Jan. 2 (UPI) -- British researchers say they've been able to genetically modify a biofuel crop to produce components of fish oils beneficial for cardiovascular health.

The flesh of oily fish such as mackerel and salmon are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids, known to reduce the risk of heart disease, but supplies are limited and unsustainable at current fishing levels, they say.

Looking to create an alternative, sustainable source, scientists at Britain's Rothamsted Research took seven genes that algae use to produce these fatty acids and inserted them into the genome of the plant Camelina sativa.

The seeds of the modified plant yielded oil that, when purified, contained around 12 per cent of the fatty acid EPA and 14 per cent DHA, the same proportions as in fish oil, they said.

The Camelina plant oil could be available commercially within 10 years, they said.

"We're never going to replace that 1 million tons a year from the sea, but if we could supply even 10 percent, we would significantly take the pressure off fish stocks," researcher Johnathan Napier told NewScientist.com.

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