Boost for 'Green Plastics' from plants: study

Published: Friday, May 2, 2008, 14:35 [IST]

Washington, May 2 (UNI) Australian researchers are a step closer to turning plants into 'biofactories' capable of producing oils which can be used to replace petrochemicals used to manufacture a range of products.

Scientists working within the joint Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Grains Research and Development Corporation, Crop Biofactories Initiative have achieved a major advance by accumulating 30 per cent of an unusual fatty acid in the model plant, Arabidopsis.

UFAs are usually sourced from petrochemicals to produce plastics, paints and cosmetics. Crop Biofactories Initiative 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," says 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 be matched to 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," Dr Green says.

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