Rothamsted Research applies to run new GM trials

Rothamsted Research applies to run new GM trials

Permission is sought from Defra to run a series of trials using genetically modified Camelina plants. The plan is for a five-year project, ending in 2023, with plants being sown in April, and harvested in September.

The application follows previous GM Camelina trials carried out last year by Rothamsted across two sites in Hertfordshire and Suffolk. The first part of the proposed research will determine performance in the field, and the seed oil yield, of transgenic Camelina plants that have been engineered to accumulate polyunsaturated fatty acids in their seeds.

These fatty acids, such as found in Omega-3 fish oils, are known to help protect against human cardiovascular disease. The hope to develop a sustainable source of these beneficial oils from plants rather than wild or farmed fish stocks.

The second strand of work will look at the performance of Camelina plants whose metabolism has been altered to increase seed oil content.

The final part will investigate the performance of Camelina plants engineered to contain less sinapine in their seeds. Sinapine is a bitter-tasting, antinutritive chemical that can make the protein-rich seed meal less palatable as an animal feed.

The application also includes appraisal of some gene edited plants, which were reclassified as GM by the EU last year. This part of the trial, using CRISPR-Cas9 gene technology, is looking to boost the amount of oleic acid – used in both food and industrial processes – already in the seeds.

For more information about the trial, go to “GM Camelina Trial: Frequently Asked Questions”. For more information on Rothamsted’s work on Camelina, go to the impact story, “From oceans to fields and back again”.

Defra received Rothamsted’s application on Tuesday 5th February, and the department has 90 days from then to process it (unless the department must stop the clock for any clarification or additional information). The department’s reference for the trial is 19/R08/01.

The Secretary of State will consider any representations made to him relating to any risks of damage to the environment posed by the release of the genetically modified organisms (GMOs) within a period that he shall specify in accordance with the Genetically Modified Organisms (Deliberate Release) Regulations 2002.

The public register can be inspected by contacting the Defra GM Team at Second Floor, Seacole Building, Marsham Street, London SW1P 4DF (e-mail: gm-regulation@defra.gov.uk, and include the application reference number, 19/R08/01 in the e-mail title). This information has also been placed on the GOV.UK website and is available here.

If granted permission to conduct the field trial, this controlled experiment would be part of Tailoring Plant Metabolism, one of Rothamsted’s five strategic programmes (2017-2022) that receive financial support from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

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