November 16/London/Xinhua General News Service -- British scientists have genetically engineered crops such as oilseed rape to produce fish oil, offering a new approach to improving diet.

The British scientists' experiments have proven that crops containing genes from marine organisms are able to produce omega-3 fatty acids normally found in oily fish, according to BBC.

Scientists at Rothamsted Research in Harpenden, Hertfordshire, north of London, isolated key genes from a species of microscopic single-celled marine algae known as Thalassiosira pseudonana, inserted the genes into crops such as linseed and oil seed rape, and found that the plants were able to synthesize omega-3 fatty acids in their seed oils.

"We know that this works, we've done proof of concept studies in model plants and also in crop plants, and we can see the accumulation of some of the fish oils we're interested in," research group leader Johnathan Napier said.

Concerns over dwindling fish stocks and marine pollution has led researchers to seek an alternative source of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids.

Omega-3 fatty acids are made not by the fish themselves but by the marine microbes they consume.

Omega-3 fatty acids have important health benefits, especially for the heart.

The scientists' eventual aim is to feed GM-enhanced oils to animals such as chickens and cattle, to produce omega-3-enriched meat, milk and eggs.

From the November 19, 2007, Prepared Foods e-Flash