Plant-based omega-3 fatty acid source passes regulatory hurdle

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© Nuseed
© Nuseed

Related tags Omega-3 fatty acid

Australian regulators have approved a GM canola derived omega-3 oil for the production and use in feed and food.

Nuseed, the subsidiary of Nufarm behind the product, said it is the world’s first plant-based source of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids.

Nufarm MD and CEO, Greg Hunt, said the approval represents a very significant milestone in the project and validates the quality of the product and extensive data that supported the regulatory application, as well as other applications lodged last year in North America.

Nuseed developed the oilseed in collaboration with Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) and the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC). 

The Australian Office of Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) approved Nuseed’s omega-3 canola for cultivation and use in feed. Food uses of the omega-3 canola were reviewed by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), with approval granted for sale and use in food in Australia and New Zealand.

This company explained previously that microalgae genes were added to the canola, using genetic breeding technologies, so that the crop is rich in omega-3. 

When asked how rich in the essential fatty acids, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), is the canola, Benita Boettner, global lead, commercial strategy, at Nuseed, told FeedNavigator:  

“The DHA in the oil from Nuseed’s omega-3 canola is expected to be in the range of +/- 10%, depending on agronomic factors. The oil does contain EPA at a low level.  Of note, Nuseed’s omega-3 canola oil also expresses significantly higher ALA content compared to conventional canola.”

Aquaculture focus

The company is planning to first commercialize canola derived omega-3 oil for aquaculture feed uses, with human nutrition applications to follow.

Aqua feed is a priority target sector because of the need for long-chain omega-3 oils in the production of farmed fish.

Both DHA and EPA are important for fish health and use of a plant-based omega-3 oil is intended to help relieve the supply pressure on fish oil derived from wild fish stocks - Nuseed estimated that one hectare of canola production should produce a similar omega-3 yield to that generated by 10,000kg of fish.

In terms of immediate next steps, Nuseed said that, in Australia, the balance of 2018 would focus on continued research activities relating to further field research trials, ​which are “focused on breeding and agronomic advancements. 

Cargill is also in the process of developing a canola based omega-3 ​oil for use in aquaculture. 

canola field

In the US, the company has received approval for a significant scale-up of pre-commercial production under the USDA notification scheme, with planting scheduled to take place over April and May in Montana.

“At a minimum, we plan to triple last year’s 3,000 acres grown in Washington State as part of our pre-commercial scale up in the US,”​ said Boettner.

Nuseed said it remains on track with its plan to start commercialization in 2019, with production programs planned in the US, pending approval in that market.

It said approval from the Australian authorities also facilitates additional regulatory applications in other markets that recognize Australia as a reference country, and, in that respect, it intends to lodge submissions in Asia.

“We are most immediately focused on Japan and China,” ​said Boettner.

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