The world’s supply chain of omega 3 fatty acids is in trouble. We have reported on it a number of times in this blog. But a new project is underway involving in the University of Nottingham, CHAIN Biotech and Calysta, Inc. to produce it from a gas that we would like to have less of floating around, methane.
So first off, what’s the problem? We get most of our omega 3 fatty acids from fish, who in turn get it from algae or smaller fish. Basically, in farmed fish production, small fish such as anchovy are ground up and the oil extracted. Around 10% of this goes into capsules for us and the rest is fed to other farmed fish. (See “GM plant to take pressure off the oceans” )
There was a shortage of omega 3 fatty acids last year when El Niño caused the closure of one of the anchovy farms that supplied 70% of the fish oil used in human nutrition. In this case vegetable oil was supplemented for the fish oil and led to farmed fish having a bad omega 3 to omega 6 ratio. Basically omega 3 is good but omega 6 can be bad for us. Our body uses the same mechanism to “import” both of these type of fatty acids so if you are eating something with a low omega 3 to omega 6 ratio then you will absorb a lot more omega 6 (See “Omega 3 good, omega 6..that’s a different story”)
That is why there is now a search to find alternative omega 3 sources. This has been achieved naturally, by using insect oils (See “Omega 3 fatty insect oils?”), plants that have a favourable omega 3 to omega 6 ratio such as linseed, chia and ahiflower, or the modified route such as cows that produce it in their milk (See “Moo Omega 3?”).
In this project, the partners are using their microbe modification know how usually used for the production of industrial chemicals and biofuels to produce a cheap and bountiful supply of omega 3 fatty acids from methane.
According to the Univeristy of Nottingham website “It will run for a year and is being funded by industrial biotechnology catalyst grants from InnovateUK and the BBSRC with potential further significant scaling up investment from Calysta, a sustainable nutrition company based in the US.”
Good luck to them I say. We are in urgent need of a more sustainable source.