The GMO producers of omega-3 oil rapeseed, soya and camelina see three major opportunities: fish feed, food and health food supplements. Their advantage is that omega-3 from plant sources will be able to reduce the dependence on expensive fish liver and fish oil as an omega-3 source. The GMO producers have developed rapeseed (Brassica napus), soya (Glycine max) and camelina (Camelina sativa) to produce approx. 20% more omega-3 unsaturated fatty acid and less saturated fatty acid. Fish oils are derived from marine fish, many of which have been overfished to their limit of survival and can no longer be caught or exploited for the increased demand for more marine omega-3.
About. 80% of marine omega-3 consumption is in fish farming. This is because many people want to eat the big fish as a source of omega-3, such as salmon and sea trout. These fish get omega-3 oil in their food from marine animals such as fish and shrimp. Caught in fish farming, these fish get omega-3 from fish oil in fish feed. These are expensive drops, and fish oil costs have risen by more than 200% in the last 10 years, while supply has been reduced by 20%. Marine omega-3 is over exploited.
A GMO producer (Cargill) has bought a fish feed producer (Ewos) and will make GMO oilseed rape with an inserted gene to produce both DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) for fish feed. In contrast, omega-3 in farmed fish has been reduced by half, probably due to the high cost of fish oil for fish feed. This significantly impairs marine omega-3 delivery to customers in the shops. This could possibly put pressure on some of them to try to eat more salmon or nutritional supplements to get the same health effects as before.
The largest GMO producer (Monsanto) has genetically modified soy to produce omega-3 fatty acids for cooking oils. Genetically modified soybean MON87769 which is in crops MON 87769 x MON 89788 has been developed to produce a soybean oil enriched with SDA (Stearidonic acid) and has been sold since 2015. Another GMO soybean plant with altered fatty acid composition is MON 87705. MON 87705 has an inserted gene for to make FATB enzymes that lead to reduced levels of saturated fatty acids and increased levels of 18:1 oleic acid (high-oleic soybean oil). These soya plants are grown to produce more food with increased unsaturated fatty acids and relatively reduced saturated fatty acids.
A crop research center (Rothamsted Research) in Great Britain has genetically modified camelina to produce omega-3 ingredients. Camelina has been produced with seeds rich in EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids. On the other hand, they have explained that a good deal of work is needed before these seed oil profiles are tailored to be optimal for a given end use such as fish feed, food and dietary supplements.
These GMO developments are happening because there is a severely limited supply of marine (DHA) omega-3. This is because the sea has been damaged by overfishing, among other things. for marine (DHA) omega-3 from whale liver in the 19th century, shark liver and cod liver in the 20th century, as well as krill and redfish may be overfished in the future. Fish oil today can come from the bodies of oily fish such as mackerel, sardines, herring and sprat. Development of omega GMO plants will continue and will contribute with more unsaturated fatty acids and less saturated fatty acids in cooking oils. In contrast, the best and healthiest omega-3 sources are from the sea.
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Usher S., Han L., Haslam RP, Michaelson LV, Sturtevant D., Aziz M., Chapman KD, Sayanova O.. and JA Napier. 2017. Tailoring seed oil composition in the real world: optimizing omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid accumulation in transgenic Camelina sativa. Scientific reports 7:6570. DOI:10.1038/s41598-017-06838-0