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Scientists bid to begin field trials into fish oil GM crop

Scientists at Rothamsted Research in Harpenden, Hertfordshire, have worked on the project for 15 years before submitting the bid. Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Archive

British scientists have applied to begin field trials of a genetically modified crop containing fish oil nutrients in its seeds in what could be a big boost to the fish farming industry.

An application to conduct the trials at Rothamsted Research agricultural institute has been submitted to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and is expected to begin from April if endorsed.

The scientists are bidding to produce the world's first sustainable plant source of fish oil omega-3 fatty acids by "cutting and pasting" genes taken from marine algae, which could help protect against heart disease.

While the fish farming industry, which consumes 80% of fish oil supplies, stands to benefit from the trials, in the long term the GM-oil could also be included in food products like margarine.

EU deal struck to ban dumping of dead fish

The Government today hailed an EU agreement to introduce a blanket ban on dumping dead fish back in the sea.

Fisheries minister Richard Benyon called it "a historic moment".

"The scandal of discards has gone on for too long and I'm delighted that the UK has taken such a central role in securing this agreement," Benyon said after marathon talks in Brussels.

Earlier this month MEPs overwhelmingly backed the biggest-ever Common Fisheries Policy reforms, crucially including an end to so-called "discards".

In the UK, TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall launched a "Discards Campaign" that has so far attracted more than 850,000 signatures on a petition.

The EU Fisheries Commissioner said almost one quarter of all fish caught in European waters is being dumped at sea due to discards.

Mackerel taken off 'to eat' list

Mackerel has been overfished in Icelandic and Faroese waters Credit: PA

Mackerel is no longer a sustainable choice for a fish supper and should be eaten only occasionally, conservationists have warned amid overfishing of the stock.

The Marine Conservation Society said it had removed mackerel, an oily fish packed with omega 3, from its latest "fish to eat" list.

Atlantic populations of mackerel have moved north-west into Icelandic and Faroe Islands waters, prompting their fishermen to fish more stock.

"The total catch is now far in excess of what has been scientifically recommended and previously agreed upon by all participating countries," said Bernadette Clarke of the Marine Conservation Society.

The conservation group said good alternatives to mackerel were herring and sardine.

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