High omega-3 canola moves step closer

30 Mar, 2017 02:00 AM
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Nuseed group executive Brent Zacharias is hopeful the range of omega-3 canola oil will be released in Australia from next year.
Nuseed group executive Brent Zacharias is hopeful the range of omega-3 canola oil will be released in Australia from next year.

NUSEED believes its range of high omega-3 oil canola could be ready for commercial release in Australia as early as next year.

Speaking following the announcement that Nuseed has completed its preparatory work on submissions for regulatory approval for the canola to be grown in Australia, Canada and the US, Nuseed group executive Brent Zacharias said he was confident the innovation would benefit both farmers and consumers.

"This project underscores the vast potential for agriculture to solve problems, in this case creating a new source of omega-3 oils rather than solely relying on aquaculture," he said.

Mr Zacharias said it was a step forward for growers looking to stop producing bulk commodities.

"This scheme will create new value and new markets for canola producers, it is an exciting time," he said.

"The era of simply producing more of a particular crop is ending; we are now looking at producing things that change the value proposition."

The long chain omega-3 canola has been developed using genetic modification (GM) in the breeding process.

The omega-3 oils typically originate in ocean microalgae, which fish consume, boosting their omega-3 levels.

Nuseed has found a way to add the relevant microalgae genes to canola.

The company anticipates that one hectare of this canola has the potential to provide the omega-3 yield from 10,000 kilograms of fish.

Mr Zacharias said it was a chance for consumers to get their omega-3 requirements without further depletion of fish stocks;

Before the product can be grown in Australia it needs to get Office of Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) approval.

Mr Zacharias said he thought the consumer reaction to the product would be positive, in spite of the fact it is GM.

"We obviously understand and respect there are some consumers that prefer non-GM, but we believe the acceptance for this product in large parts of the world is very high," he said.

"A lot of the world is very comfortable with GM products, especially when the products help with sustainability of resources."

Nick Goddard, of the Australian Oilseeds Federation (AOF) welcomed the news.

"It is a great initiative and we are very supportive of any innovation that creates value for Australian canola producers," he said.

Mr Goddard said demand for omega-3s was on the rise across the world and that producing omega-3 rich crops would be a good way for growers to move away from producing crops solely for the bulk market.

John Eastburn, chairman of farmer lobby group Grain Growers, was also excited by the news.

"GGL believes something like this is a win-win for both consumers and farmers," he said.

"Omega-3s help in people's diet and if you can get a product where you can easily get more of them into your daily diet then that has to be good for all Australian citizens.

"From the farmers' perspective it is good to have a means to get a better value for their oilseed crops."

Mr Zacharias said the crop would be produced along a closed-loop supply chain system, similar to what occurs with other Nuseed specialty crops such as Monola.

"It is likely to be a relatively small-scale, invitation-only crop for the first year at least, but the exciting thing is that it has the potential to scale very quickly," he said.

Mr Zacharias said there would be four major target markets for the product, aquaculture, food direct for human consumption, dietary supplements and the pharmaceuticals sector.

In terms of agronomics, Mr Zacharias said it would be a relatively quick process to breed the traits into Nuseed's elite genetics.

"We are looking to work with our elite materials and that has all been timed in with the end use market scale up, so farmers can expect the high omega-3 lines to perform well agronomically from the start," he said.

Mr Zacharias said based on previous experiences, the company expected Australian regulatory approval in around 12 months, stretching out to up to 24 months in the US and Canada.

Nuseed has worked together with CSIRO and the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) since 2011 on the project.

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FarmOnline
Gregor Heard

Gregor Heard

is the national grains writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media

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