Nothing fishy about canola breakthrough


Consumers could be sourcing their omega-3 from Australian paddocks within five years as a research alliance confirms it has cracked the code for putting the nutrient into canola.

Long-chain omega-3 traditionally comes from fish, but this week the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) together with Nuseed and CSIRO, announced a $50 million research collaboration to use gene technology to develop and commercialise a vegetable oil containing omega-3.

Already CSIRO scientists have enabled canola plants to generate long-chain omega-3 oils and the breakthrough is set to benefit not only growers and consumers — but the environment.

Containing fatty acids that play a role in heart and brain health, as well child and infant development, demand for omega-3 is continuing to grow.

Estimates place the current omega-3 market at $US18.6 billion, but the primary source for the nutrient is fish and sustainable supply simply can’t keep up. With population growth, it’s estimated 70 million tonnes of fish above existing production will be needed to meet consumer demand.

And by 2016, WA growers could be cashing in on the emerging omega-3 market.

The collaboration aims to be trialling elite lines by 2013 and have seeds commercially available three years after that.

According to GRDC managing director John Harvey, it’s about marrying sustainability with emerging markets.

“Plant-based omega-3 oil production is a sustainable, long-term solution to the growing demand for omega-3 oils, ” he said.

“This alternative long-chain omega-3 canola oil will provide Australian growers with an exciting new variety for domestic and international grain markets.”

Director of CSIRO’s Food Futures Flagship Bruce Lee said the partnership offered exciting potential and meant they were one step closer to having a commercially viable product.

“By being able to produce long-chain omega-3 oils in canola we are developing a nutrient that is important for human health in a sustainable plant resource, ” he said.

The GRDC will put in $900,000 a year for the next five years as part of the partnership.

Nuseed will have the global exclusive commercial licence for existing and co-developed long-chain omega-3 intellectual property.

Meanwhile, an Auckland biotech start-up, Photonz Corp Ltd, has signed a deal with French company Separex to extract an omega-3 fatty acid from fermented algae.

The company has a patented technology to produce eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) from algae and a prototype industrial fermentation plant harvested the first batch of algae in April last year.

Get the latest news from in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails