IFFO urges caution with new omega-3 GM crops
The International Fishmeal and Fish Oil Organization (IFFO) is speaking out about a recent article describing new genetically-modified land-based crops in the United Kingdom that will offer omega-3 oils.
IFFO Director General Andrew Mallison sent a letter to the U.K. newspaper The Independent in response to an article in the paper describing how Rothamsted Research will soon be producing the plants and their oils for use in dietary supplements. The move places the new crops in direct competition with natural fish oil.
In his remarks, Mallison said land-based crops could help with demand in the long term, but nothing will ever fully replace marine-based fish oil.
"Marine ingredients have an essential role to play in human health and the farming of fish and other animals to feed our growing population," he wrote.
Mallison also used his letter to deflect criticism that plant-based omega-3 oils are more environmentally-friendly than marine-source fish oil.
"Major animal feed companies, through their support for fish oil, are incentivizing fishery improvement programs," he wrote. "Losing markets to vegetable alternatives would reduce the incentive for this positive change and favor competition, which itself is not free from environmental concerns."
Mallison also noted that much of the marine-based fish oil produced today comes from "recycled trimmings and offcuts from fish processing," while more and more whole herring and mackerel is being sold directly to human consumption. In addition, many oil producers are using unmodified marine algae.
Mallison said there is room in the fish oil market for land-based products, but buyers and consumers should not believe that a land-based oil is somehow better than their ocean-based counterparts.
"The fish oil industry welcomes competition and the food security that comes from diversity of supply," Mallison wrote. "However, as new sources arise, it is important to make informed decisions on their benefits and avoid overstated concerns that put at risk the momentum of improving practices within the fishing industry."