Sustainable DHA omega-3 canola closer to reality

A significant milestone was achieved late last year by Australia’s long-chain omega-3 canola research collaboration when it produced DHA oil levels equal to that found in wild fish.

The collaboration, formed in 2011 between Nuseed, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), aims to develop a genetically modified canola that will produce long-chain omega-3 oil at levels equal to that of wild fish.

“With more people around the world consuming long-chain omega-3 oils for the associated health benefits, a sustainable solution is needed to take pressure off our wild fish stocks and provide an alternate source,” said Dr Malcolm Devine, Nuseed’s global innovation lead.

“We recently achieved our target DHA oil levels, giving us great encouragement that we are on the right path to deliver a commercially viable alternative omega-3 oil source.”
Development of the canola involves plant to plant gene transfer.

“We are taking genes from one member of the plant kingdom, microalgae, and using them in canola to deliver DHA rich oil,” said Dr James Petrie, senior scientist with the CSIRO’s Food Futures Flagship.

“If we are successful, we estimate that one hectare of the DHA canola will deliver the equivalent amount of DHA oil that can be extracted from 10,000 fish.”

Why sustainable DHA omega-3 is important

The benefits of long-chain omega-3 in human health are well documented, playing an important role in heart and brain health, child and infant development, inflammation management and other health functions.

Demand for DHA omega-3 oil is driven by supplements and fortified foods for human consumption and feed additives in industries like aquaculture.

“Consumers around the world are becoming more aware of the well documented DHA health benefits, and are consuming more DHA rich products. World demand for long-chain omega-3 oils is increasing due to continued research validation of positive affects in human diets,” said Dr Surinder Singh, CSIRO group leader for oilseeds.

“These healthy oils are commonly derived from ocean microalgae. Fish, such as salmon and tuna, consume the microalgae-derived oils via their food-chain and the long-chain omega-3 oils accumulate in their flesh.

“It is projected that demand for healthy long-chain omega-3 oils will exceed the production that can be sustainably supplied by wild fish stocks.

“Using an alternative land-based source of the oil will be critical to maintain an adequate supply for an ever increasing demand.”

Next steps

The collaboration is now moving into full development pre-regulatory stages with both field and lab performance trials.

“The trials will be carefully monitored and controlled in line with federal regulatory requirements. Material generated in the trials will not enter the feed or food chain,” Dr Devine said.

“We aim to have seed available for commercial production by around 2018, provided key development milestones are achieved and the required regulatory protocols are met.”