Genetically modified soybeans containing stearidonic acid (SDA) could be attractive to the food industry as a taste neutral and sustainable source of omega-3.
Significance of GRAS notice
While it is not quite ready for food stores, the plant-based omega-3 is one step closer to market having gained FDA Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) notification.
The no objection letter from the FDA now enables food companies to sample and test the ingredient to determine how best to use it.
Al Gallegos, Solae marketing and sales director for omega-3, said this was a major milestone but not the end of the road.
SDA omega-3 is unlikely to appear in food products until the next decade, according to Gallegos, because there are some regulatory hurdles still to be negotiated.
Before reaching the market final approval is required from the FDA and USDA, as well from other agencies in key export markets.
Plant based advantages
Solae joined up with Monsanto in 2007 to work on the sales and marketing of SDA soybean oil. It has identified two main advantages of the new omega-3 source.
Firstly, soy omega-3 is likely to be cheaper and easier to incorporate into food products than standard fish and algal oil omega-3. Gallegos said it performs well nutritionally and has a no adverse effect on taste.
Secondly, the new plant-source omega-3 provides a means for the food industry to meet increasing demand for the nutrient in a sustainable way, without endangering fish stocks.
“As the population expands and consumer demand for healthier food grows, this product could offer farmers and the food industry an opportunity to help meet this growing demand in a sustainable way,” said Monsanto global technology lead Roy Fuchs.
Other big companies are also active in the search for sustainable omega-3 fatty acids. Research is still ongoing at BASF Plant Science, DuPont, and universities on both sides of the Atlantic in the race to develop new omega 3 products from GM soy and rapeseeds as well as algae.