The phrase “genetically engineered” has never been so aptly applied as to this. The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory, working with the Dow Chemical Company and Dow AgroSciences, have announced they’ve successfully engineered a plant that could potentially be used to make plastics.
The process involves growing plants which can produce high levels of Omega-7 fatty acids (FA’s), which are then used to create plastic. Researchers have been exploring ways to utilize these genes for a while now before this breakthrough.
After a number of tests, scientists were able to grow a plant that increased the natural level of omega-7 FA’s by 70 percent. That’s enough to provide a plant-based feedstock source for industrial use to produce low density polyethylene. This would, researchers believe, provide a plant seed source that would be renewable and sustainable on an indefinite basis.
This process is far from perfect and scientists admit it’s not yet at the level needed for industrial-scale production as more research is needed. All well and good perhaps, but one wonders about the wisdom of fooling with Mother Nature and the potential for serious repercussions down the line.