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Plants provide green plastics

The move to turn plants into biofactories capable of producing oils to use as a replacement for petrochemicals used to manufacture a range of products is one step closer.

Accumulating 30% of an unusual fatty acid (UFA) in the model plant, Arabidopsis, researchers are now moving to the next level of testing.

UFAs usually come from petrochemicals to produce plastics, paints, and cosmetics, said researchers with Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO)/Grains Research and Development Corporation Crop Biofactories Initiative (CBI). CBI is developing new technologies for making a range of UFAs in oilseeds to provide Australia with a head start in the emerging bioeconomy.

“Using crops as biofactories has many advantages, beyond the replacement of dwindling petrochemical resources,” said the leader of the crop development team, CSIRO’s Dr. Allan Green. “Global challenges such as population growth, climate change, and the switch from non-renewable resources are opening up many more opportunities for bio-based products.”

The production of biofactory plants can match demand and will provide farmers with new, high-value crops bred to suit their growing conditions. The technology is low greenhouse gas generating, sustainable, and can reinvigorate agribusiness.

“We are confident we have the right genes, an understanding of the biosynthesis pathways, and the right breeding skills to produce an oilseed plant with commercially viable UFA levels in the near future,” Green said.

“Safflower is an ideal plant for industrial production for Australia,” Green said. “It is hardy and easy to grow, widely adapted to Australian production regions, and easily isolated from food production systems.”

The CBI is a 12-year project that aims to add value to the Australian agricultural and chemical industries by developing technologies to produce novel industrial compounds from genetically modified oilseed crops.

The project focuses on three key areas: Industrial Oils, Complex Monomers, and Protein Biopolymers.

Source:  1 May 2008, InTech Home InTech Home, Plants provide green plastics, Staff @ Tech Home,

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