Fish oil grown on the farm has come a step closer following promising results from a genetically modified crop trial.
British scientists have developed a GM oilseed plant, Camelina sativa or “false flax”, whose seeds contain omega-3 fatty acids normally only present in oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and herring.
The new study conducted at Rothamsted Research in Harpenden, Hertfordshire, showed that the plants were able to synthesise useful amounts of fish oil in field conditions without affecting their yield.
The next stage of the research will involve testing different strains of the crop and comparing them with conventional Camelina.
It is primarily aimed at finding a plant-based sustainable food source for farmed fish. But plant-produced fish oil may also find its way into supplements and fortified foods such as margarine.
Rothamsted scientist Dr Olga Sayanova said: “We are delighted with the results of our first-year field trial.
“Finding a land-based source of feedstocks containing omega-3 fish oils has long been an urgent priority for truly sustainable aquaculture. Our results give hope that oilseed crops grown on land can contribute to improving the sustainability of the fish farming industry and the marine environment in the future.”