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.