Wednesday, November 19, 2014

19/11/2014: To GM or not to GM? That is the question

by Ioannis Zabetakis, Assistant Professor of Food Chemistry, University of Athens, Greece in International Aquafeed

This is the question William Shakespeare would ponder today if he was alive and he had attended the recent talk of BioMar's Executive Vice President of Sourcing, Niels Alsted who focused on the quest for finding alternative sources of EPA and DHA in his introduction during the round table discussion at the recent Aquaculture Europe 2014 Conference that took place in San Sebastian, Spain.
Ioannis Zabetakis, Assistant Professor of Food Chemistry, University of Athens, Greece
 According to the reports, Niels Alsted said that the recent jump in the price of marine raw materials underlines the necessity of finding alternative sources of EPA and DHA fatty acids in fish feed. He pointed at four of the possible sources of EPA and DHA, but also underlined that at present, none of these sources are available in sufficient quantities to really make a difference in the market.

As one of the options, he mentioned a better utilisation of by-products from the fishing industry and the implementation of more efficient production processes for fishmeal and fish oil. The question that arises here is this: do research-funding bodies around the globe have at present relative calls for grant applications?

According to Mr Alsted, one of the most promising technological solutions in the short run is the use of fermentation techniques where heterotrophic microorganisms produce EPA and DHA based on sugar. Technically possible but not affordable at the moment as fish oil is cheaper.

As the last of the four alternatives, Mr Alsted mentioned the inclusion of the algae gene producing EPA and DHA into plants like rape, soy, or camelina as the most cost efficient and easily scalable solution. Besides, that Mr Alsted was well aware that it is controversial for some to use an algae gene in plants, he pointed towards the large regional differences in acceptance and perception of genetically modified organisms.

"While there is resistance in some European countries against using genetically modified crops as feed ingredients in aquaculture, the use of genetically modified organisms like soy in aquaculture feed is already the standard in both Asia and America – and also in the production of feed for land animals in Europe – so this last alternative will probably within five to seven years become one of the ways to produce more of the healthy fatty acids – if not in Europe then at least outside Europe," he concluded.

However, in Europe, we are still a GMO free region and this should be viewed not only commercially, but from the educationalist point of view. As European Academics, we do work and travel all around the world and whenever and wherever possible we advocate our views against the GM use in the production of food.

Food is a sensitive issue for all people. GM companies should seek applications of their (questionable sometimes!) methods and techniques outside the food chain. So, my answer to William would be “definitely, Not to GM, dear William”.

Read more HERE.

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