GLA is an omega-6 fatty acid, which has been studied as an anti-inflammatory, for neuro health, skin health and for its potential to turn off a gene that is responsible for almost 30 percent of breast cancers.
Conventional safflower is not a natural source of GLA - although it does have a healthy image as it is polyunsaturated, a quality leading to its use in margarines. Arcadia's Jeff Bergau explained to NutraIngredients-USA.com that safflower was selected since it is a commonly cultivated crop.
It is, however a source of linoleic acid (along with corn, sunflower, soy, peanut and flaxseed oils), but the conversion of linoleic acid to GLA in the human body can be difficult if there are inadequate levels of vitamins B6 and B3, magnesium and zinc, or high amounts of trans-fatty acids and saturated fat in the diet.
This means that it is preferable to consume GLA in its ready-converted form, for maximum benefit.
The main sources of GLA are currently evening primrose oil and borage oil, but since these are relatively difficult to grow supply of the oil can be erratic and costly. What is more, standard GLA content is 10 and 20 percent respectively.
This means that where it may have been necessary to take seven capsules of evening primrose oil, the same dosage could now be achieved with only two safflower oil capsules may be necessary.
The company is not releasing its pricing model at this point, but Bergau said the aim was "to develop a more economical, convenient and cheaper source".
He speculated that one of the reasons that GLA, an omega-6 fatty acid, has not been studied as comprehensively as omega-3, may be down to the irregular supply.
The other benefit will be for the safflower-growers. Safflower acreage has declined in recent years, partly as a result of the Japan, a key market for the oil's use as a heat stable cooking oil, preferring to source from Mexico.
The new variety will be a value-added product and as such will not be a commodity.
The company started investigating high GLA safflower in 2004, following an agreement with Canada's SenBioSys Genetics to apply its proprietary oilbody-based technology - the Stratosome Biologics System - to proprietary genes from Arcadia.
The first results were announced in November 2005, when Arcadia said it had achieved an oil with 35 percent GLA. The latest breakthrough represents a further development of this, and Bergau said that development with any new product is always on-going.
Last Month the company signed an agreement with Cal/West, a seed production cooperative, to provide the breeding and production expertise needed to commercialise the GLA-enriched oil; Arcadia will provide the technology and marketing.
No details are being released just yet about the amount of the new safflower variety being planted, but broad commercialisation of the oil is anticipated for 2008.