Five-year project will investigate field performance of plants making heart healthy oils

  • 09
  • MAY
  • 2019

Defra has given Rothamsted permission to run a series of trials using genetically modified Camelina plants.

The successful application follows previous GM Camelina trials carried out last year by Rothamsted across two sites in Hertfordshire and Suffolk.

The first part of the proposed research will determine performance in the field, and the seed oil yield, of transgenic Camelina plants that have been engineered to accumulate omega-3 fish oils in their seeds.

These fatty acids, also known as omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, help protect against human cardiovascular disease.

A recent study led by the University of Southampton found the uptake and use of these oils by the body was the same whether plant or fish-based sources were consumed.

Similarly, in a collaboration with University of Stirling and Norwegian University of Science and Technology it was shown that these GM oils were an effective substitute for fish oil in the feeds of farmed salmon.

The hope is to develop a sustainable source of these beneficial oils from plants rather than from oceanic sources and to provide more of these important nutrients.

The second strand of work will look at the performance of Camelina plants whose metabolism has been altered to increase seed oil content.

The final part will investigate the performance of Camelina plants engineered to contain less sinapine in their seeds. Sinapine is a bitter-tasting, antinutritive chemical that can make the protein-rich seed meal less palatable as an animal feed.

The trial also includes appraisal of some gene edited plants, which were reclassified as GM by the EU last year. This part of the trial, using CRISPR-Cas9 gene technology, is looking to boost the amount of oleic acid – used in both food and industrial processes – already in the seeds.

This experiment is part of Tailoring Plant Metabolism, one of Rothamsted's five strategic programmes (2017-2022) that receive financial support from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

For more information about the trial, read the GM Camelina Trial: Frequently Asked Questions. For more information on Rothamsted's work on Camelina, read From oceans to fields and back again.

About Rothamsted Research
Rothamsted Research is the longest-running agricultural research institute in the world. We work from gene to field with a proud history of ground-breaking discoveries, from crop treatment to crop protection, from statistical interpretation to soils management. Our founders, in 1843, were the pioneers of modern agriculture, and we are known for our imaginative science and our collaborative influence on fresh thinking and farming practices.
Through independent science and innovation, we make significant contributions to improving agri-food systems in the UK and internationally. In terms of the institute’s economic contribution, the cumulative impact of our work in the UK was calculated to exceed £3000 million a year in 20151. Our strength lies in our systems approach, which combines science and strategic research, interdisciplinary teams and partnerships.
Rothamsted is also home to three unique resources. These National Capabilities are open to researchers from all over the world: The Long-Term Experiments, Rothamsted Insect Survey and the North Wyke Farm Platform.
We are strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), with additional support from other national and international funding streams, and from industry. We are also supported by the Lawes Agricultural Trust (LAT).
For more information, visit; Twitter @Rothamsted
1Rothamsted Research and the Value of Excellence: A synthesis of the available evidence, by Séan Rickard (Oct 2015)

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council is part of UK Research and Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government.
BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.
Funded by government, BBSRC invested £469 million in world-class bioscience in 2016-17. We support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.
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About LAT
The Lawes Agricultural Trust, established in 1889 by Sir John Bennet Lawes, supports Rothamsted Research’s national and international agricultural science through the provision of land, facilities and funding. LAT, a charitable trust, owns the estates at Harpenden and Broom's Barn, including many of the buildings used by Rothamsted Research. LAT provides an annual research grant to the Director, accommodation for nearly 200 people, and support for fellowships for young scientists from developing countries. LAT also makes capital grants to help modernise facilities at Rothamsted, or invests in new buildings.