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Genetic modification of linseed produces healthier omega 3 and 6 fatty acids

In research reported this month in The Plant Cell, scientists succeeded in producing genetically modified linseed plants that accumulate significant levels of very long chain poly-unsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) in seed. This is the first report of the successful engineering of very long chain PUFA into an oilseed crop, and is an excellent example of how genetic engineering of agronomically important species can provide real benefits to human health and nutrition and the environment.

In research reported this month in The Plant Cell, Ernst Heinz at the University of Hamburg (Germany) and colleagues succeeded in producing genetically modified linseed plants that accumulate significant levels of very long chain poly-unsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) in seed. The work is the result of an international collaboration between scientists at several research institutions in Germany (University of Hamburg, BASF Plant Science GmbH and Forschungszentrum Borstel), Rothamsted Research Station in the U.K., and Kansas State University in the U.S. This research is an excellent example of how genetic engineering of agronomically important species can provide real benefits to human health and nutrition and the environment. As demand rises for edible oils that are low in saturated fats and high in poly-unsaturated fats, in particular very long chain omega 3- and omega 6-poly-unsaturated fats, the production of these oils in plants may reduce environmentally and economically unsustainable pressures on both wild and farmed fisheries.

Fatty acids are long straight chains of carbon atoms, ranging in length from about 12 to 22 carbons (C12 to C22). They have one water-soluble end and one oil-soluble methyl end, and are studded with hydrogen atoms along the length of the carbon chain. They are essential components of the membranes of all living organisms. Fatty acid chains that are linked by single bonds between carbon atoms are said to be "saturated" by hydrogen atoms, w
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Contact: Nancy Eckardt
neckardt@aspb.org
970-495-9918
American Society of Plant Biologists
17-Sep-2004


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