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Crop Biotech Update

GM Meets GE in Camelina Field Trials

May 23, 2018

For the first time in the United Kingdom, genome-edited (GE) crops will be planted in a field as part of an experimental trial at Rothamsted Research that aims to investigate genetic engineering's efficiency in developing plants to yield more nutritious diets more sustainably.

The GE lines of Camelina will be planted in the same field where Rothamsted's genetically modified (GM) varieties of Camelina plants will be sown. The GM Camelina is engineered to accumulate omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFAs), a form of lipid that are also known as omega-3 fish oils, in their seeds.

While GM plants require approval before they can be planted in the field, GE varieties do not necessarily. The crucial difference is between mutations that incorporate DNA from a different species, transgenes, and those that do not. The GM Camelina incorporates new (algal) genes; the GE varieties involve only changes (losses) in the plant's DNA material. The approved field trial at Rothamsted comprises 20 strains of Camelina sativa: 17 GM lines, two GE lines, and one wild-type (control) line.

"These two technologies promise much," says Johnathan Napier, who leads Rothamsted's Omega-3 Flagship Programme. "The GM plants should yield superior levels of [LC-PUFAs] EPA and DHA; the GE plants will improve our understanding of lipid metabolism."

For more details, read the Rothamsted Research News.