Nuseed, a subsidiary of Nufarm, Ltd. of Australia, has received approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to start planting its proprietary omega-3 canola, according to Food Navigator. The decision brings plant-derived long-chain omega-3s a step closer to the U.S. market, the publication noted.
Although the company may now plant its omega-3 canola in this country, the oil from the plants can't be used for food or feed applications unless the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gives Nuseed regulatory approval. The company told Food Navigator it anticipates receiving that approval before the 2019 growing season.
Nuseed said in in a release that its canola is genetically modified to produce long-chain omega-3 oil at levels equal to that of wild fish. Genes are taken from microalgae and used in the canola to produce oil rich in DHA, or docosahexaenoic acid, which is found in the meat of cold-water fish.
This plant appears to have the potential to significantly limit the number of fish that would have to be harvested for omega-3 purposes. According to Nuseed, one hectare — about 2.5 acres — of its proprietary canola could produce the same amount of DHA oil that can be extracted from 10,000 one-kilogram fish.
Once the company has FDA's approval to use its proprietary omega-3 oil in food products, some consumers — particularly vegans and vegetarians — may respond positively to the sustainability factor, although others may be concerned about the GM aspect. A recent online survey from the International Food Information Council Foundation found that shoppers will typically avoid GM foods if possible — and they want food items labeled so they know whether genetically modified organisms are present.
More people might use omega-3 oil in supplements and enriched food items if they're aware of the health benefits. Omega-3 fatty acids can lower the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and depression, improve mental health, and enhance a child's learning ability, according to studies.
Food Navigator pointed out that fish-derived omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to cardiovascular health since the early 1970s, with different benefits accruing from different sources. The main types of omega-3 fatty acids available in the U.S. marketplace come from fish, as well as vegetable oils and nuts such as walnuts, flax seeds, flaxseed oil, leafy vegetables and some animal fat.
According to Grand View Research, the global omega-3 market was valued at $2.04 billion in 2016 and was projected to increase at a compound annual growth rate of 6.6% between 2012 and 2022. That's undoubtedly why Nuseed, plus other companies such as Cargill, are developing plant-based omega-3 products to bring to market.
Nuseed already received approval earlier this year from Australian authorities to plant its proprietary canola and include the oil in food and feed in that country. The company next plans to commercialize its omega-3 oil under the brand Aquaterra for aquaculture feed applications and then in human nutrition applications under the Nutriterra brand.
Food Navigator said that Nuseed is likely to be the first to market with its omega-3 product, with Cargill and BASF planning to introduce their GM canola product sometime after 2020.