Cargill developing new omega-3 canola for fish

Replacement oil would ease harvesting pressure on wild fish populations.

A new groundbreaking type of canola in development by Cargill could give aquaculture farmers a more sustainable way to raise fish rich in eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) omega-3 fatty acids.

The plant-based source of the nutrients, developed in collaboration with BASF, could provide an alternative to using fish oil in aquaculture feed and could ease harvest pressure on wild fish populations that currently supply much of that oil, Cargill said.

In feeding trials it conducted with salmon in Chile, Cargill was able to completely replace fish oil in feed rations with oil from EPA/DHA canola.

"As a fish feed producer, we need to reduce our dependency on marine resources," Einar Wathne, president of Cargill Aqua Nutrition. "This new canola can create tremendous opportunities across the global food and feed markets, and we believe it is critical for the growth of aquaculture."

Right now, raising fish rich in omega-3s means supplementing their feed with fish oil. This new canola, which is genetically engineered to make long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, will offer a more sustainable alternative as it eases pressure on finite marine resources. Testing and regulatory approval for both the canola and the EPA/DHA enhanced canola oil is underway. The EPA/DHA enhanced canola oil is expected to reach the market sometime after 2020.

"Cargill's EPA/DHA omega-3 plant-based product is the only one we know of with a clear path to commercialization in the industry," said Mark Christiansen, managing director for Global Edible Oil Solutions-Specialties at Cargill.

This innovation may also broaden access to EPA and DHA omega-3s in consumer diets and make important nutrients more available and more affordable to people around the world, the company said. Groups such as the American Heart Assn., Mayo Clinic and Harvard School of Public Health cite the heart health benefits and role in brain formation of EPA and DHA, but studies show that most people are not consuming recommended levels of these omega-3s. As public awareness of the health benefits increases for omega-3s, demand for these nutrients is expected to rise significantly.

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