Plant-based omega-3 receives Plant Variety Protection in Europe and US

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

Plant-based omega-3 receives Plant Variety Protection in Europe & US

Related tags: ahiflower oil, omega 3, alpha linolenic acid

Natures Crops International has announced its omega-3 rich Ahiflower plant is now registered and protected under the European and US Plant Variety Protection (PVP) programs.

The move confirms the three varieties of Ahiflower (Buglossoides arvensis​) as novel, distinct, uniform and stable and adds to the two varieties previously registered and protected across the UK, EU and US.

The certifications, administered by the Community Plant Variety Office (CPVO) for the EU, grant intellectual property protection and provide the owner with exclusive rights.

“The agricultural innovation demonstrated in securing PVP certification has continued to advance, and what was previously viewed as a common weed is now a high-value specialty oilseed crop grown on thousands of acres by UK farmers,"​ said Simon Meakin, Vice President of Agronomy and GM for UK operations of Natures Crops International.

"Ahiflower has gained significant attention as a scientifically-validated alternative to fish oil that is sustainably and regeneratively produced. Due to the value this tiny plant offers, we have a responsibility to protect it."

Ahiflower potential

In previous studies, Ahiflower has been found to offer the highest levels of non-GM omega-3 essential fatty acids among commercially available dietary plant oils,

The plant combines ALA (alpha linolenic acid) and high levels of stearidonic acid (SDA) as well as gamma linolenic acid (GLA), an omega-6 essential fatty acid.

Other fatty acids provided by Ahiflower includes oleic acid, an omega-9 fatty acid, to complement the overall healthy profile of this plant oil.

One issue highlighted with all plant-based omega-3 sources centres on the low conversion ratio of ALA, the main omega-3 in plant sources such as flax, chia and hemp, into eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).

3-20% conversion

Along with DHA, EPA is one of the two omega-3 fatty acids thought to be responsible for the array of health benefits attributed to omega-3 fatty acids. Most experts peg this conversion between 3% to as much as 20% for vegetarians.

The proportion of ALA converted to DHA is small. SDA, on the other hand, converts to EPA at ratio of 30% to 35%, and that direct consumption of SDA is far more efficient than consuming large amounts of ALA.

In a recent interview​ Andrew Hebard, founder, president and CEO of Natures Crops International, highlighted another study that demonstrated Ahiflower oil’s capacity to  increase live probiotic survival rate by up to two times when used as a functional carrier oil.

“Another reason Ahiflower oil is rising in use globally is because one can achieve significant daily omega-3 intake levels with minimal dosages. As a functional carrier oil, it adds tremendous value.”

Brexit issues

In a February CPVO statement, holders of a Community Plant Variety right granted before the end of the Brexit transition period (31 December 2020) become holders of a plant variety right in the UK under UK law.

The CPVO have notified breeders that the plant variety rights granted by the CPVO as from 1 January 2021 do not cover the territory of the UK, including Northern Ireland.

In order to get Plant Variety Protection in the UK, breeders need to file a separate application to the relevant UK authorities.

“Brexit has placed many challenges on UK agriculture and farmers, and building a successful business around high value, low input crops like Ahiflower expands opportunities for growers and is good for the environment,” ​said Hebard.

"Ahiflower is expected to become an increasingly important oilseed crop in the future, exclusively grown in the UK, using regenerative agricultural practices."

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