Friday, September 17, 2010

Omega-3 from GM yeast “comparable to GRAS fish oil”: DuPont study

The safety of an EPA-rich oil from genetically modified yeast is “comparable to that of GRAS fish oil”, says a new study from DuPont. Results of a 90-day rat study with eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)-rich oil produced from GM Yarrowia lipolytica yeast produced no adverse effects at doses up to 976 mg EPA per kilogram of body weight per day, according to findings published in Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology.

The safety profile of EPA oil was comparable to that of GRAS fish oil. These results support the use of EPA oil produced from yeast as a safe source for use in dietary supplements.

Fears about dwindling fish stocks, however, coupled with the putative risk of pollutants from oily fish, have pushed some in academia and industry to investigate the extraction of omega-3 from alternative sources. DHA extracted from non-GM microalgae is already on the market by Martek, as is plant-source alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a shorter chain omega-3 that is less bioavailable for humans. However, this has not stopped a widening of the search for alternatives.

One such approach has been to utilize genetic engineering of plants to produce SDA (stearidonic acid), EPA and DHA, with biotech giants Monsanto, DuPont, and BASF reporting progress. Indeed, Monsanto teamed up with Solae in 2007 to commercialize the former’s soybean variety developed specially to be rich in SDA. The oil is being commercialized by Solae under the brand name Soymega, and GRAS status (generally recognized as safe) was attained in 2009. On the other hand, BASF Plant Science, in collaboration with Rothamsted Research and the University of York in the UK, has inserted genes from micro-organisms such as Thallasiosira pseudonana into rapeseed to produce EPA-containing vegetable oil. DuPont moves forward The new study shows the progress of DuPont in this field, as it moves to establish the safety of its EPA-rich oil from yeast.

Steve - while we support the search for alternatives to fish-derived EPA/DHA, aside from microalgae (which only produces DHA), we are not supportive of any of these potential discoveries until they show efficacy and safety. Some of the players involved in this search do not have the finest track record. We know that they are only interested in creating a product which they can patent for themselves.

For something as crucial as EPA/DHA, I would like to see the WHO form cooperative of sorts, where these companies can share their research so they can collectively come up with a product that is safe, viable, environmentally-friendly, and widely attainable. They can then equally share in the profits. Ah...wishful thinking.

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