DHA omega-3 canola trials approved

The Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) today gave Nuseed a licence to conduct field trials of a genetically modified (GM) canola, currently under development, which contains healthy long-chain omega-3 oils.

This GM long-chain omega-3 canola contains a single construct of seven genes involved in the biosynthesis of omega-3 fatty acids, designed to enhance the plant’s oil profile. The gene transfer is from one plant, microalgae, to another plant, canola.

The aim of this new canola is to provide a sustainable, renewable long-chain omega-3 oil product as an alternative to using finite wild fish stocks, which are under increasing pressure as demand grows for the oil’s health benefits.

The project’s partners are Nuseed (a wholly owned subsidiary of Nufarm Limited), the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC).

The OGTR’s approval will allow this GM long-chain omega-3 canola to be assessed to evaluate agronomic performance, oil content and genetic stability under field conditions in both current and potential commercial canola growing areas of Australia.

The application proposes a commencement date of 1 March 2014, for a period of up to five years.

In the first years, trial activity will be very small and be conducted in only a handful of locations. These sites are likely to be close to Nuseed’s existing seed breeding facilities.

Nuseed takes its responsibilities under the various regulatory obligations seriously and will follow the appropriate protocols as stipulated by the licence conditions. A number of containment measures will be employed to prevent the spread and persistence of the GM canola. These include limiting the trial size, using containment zones, hygiene protocols, monitoring regimes, restricting personnel access, site cleaning, and post trial monitoring for at least two years post-harvest.

Additionally, in the first year each line will be covered under a pollination control tent to provide a high level of containment during flowering for better risk management and to ensure seed purity.

This trial approval from the OGTR is a significant milestone in what has been, and still is, a long process for the project team to develop a unique and sustainable source of increasingly scarce long-chain omega-3 oil.

Information about the OGTR’s assessment regarding this licence (DIR 123) can be found at their website: www.ogtr.gov.au. Details about the long-chain omega-3 canola project can be found at nuseed.com.