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Application submitted by Rothamsted Research to boost fish farming in Harpenden
An application to progress the fish farming industry in Harpenden has been submitted by Rothamsted Research.
The West Common based agricultural institute has submitted an application to conduct field trials of a genetically modified crop containing Omega-3 fatty acids normally found in oily fish.
If approved by the government, the trials could begin at Rothamsted Research this year, with the initial aim of the crop to benefit the fish farming industry. In a decade it could end up in food products, such as margarine.
The scientists at Rothamsted Research - who have been working on the project for 15 years - modified seeds from Camelina sativa (false flax) plants using genes from marine algae - the primary organisms that produce the fatty acids.
By substituting synthetic versions of up to seven genes from marine algae, the researchers have engineered Camelina plants to produce two key Omega-3 fatty acids normally obtained from oily fish, EPA and DHA.
Both are said to have important health benefits, including protection against heart disease.
Professor Martin Parry, Acting Director of Rothamsted Research said: "It will be a significant step forward, if we are granted permission to perform a controlled experiment in our already established facilities here at Rothamsted Research.
"We will be able to assess in "real environmental conditions" the potential of contributing a more sustainable and affordable alternative way of providing fish oil. This will potentially enable us to provide knowledge that may contribute in reducing the pressure on the marine resources."
If the application is granted, the first crop could be sown in approximately three months.
Professor Parry added: "Carrying out a field experiment will be the only way to assess the viability of a solution that can bring economic benefits to the farmers, returns to the UK taxpayer, benefits to the UK economy as a whole and the environment in general."
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