Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Biodiesel venture combines refining, genetic engineering

"A genetics company and a biodiesel refiner have formed a joint venture to see if they can cut the cost of biodiesel." These two companies obviously hope to create more together than they might otherwise. "Targeted Growth has created a version of camelina, a distant relative of canola, with seeds that produce about 20 percent more oil than seeds from conventional plants."

This is an interesting take on genetic engineering and agribusiness. Genetic engineering of food crops is causing a lot of concern about what that can mean to our food. Essentially, is our food still safe and what are the unseen unexpected side effects that will no doubt arise from genetically engineering food? I say it that way because it seems always to be the case that new developments carry with them unforeseen side effects that are less than desirable.

Genetic engineering of non-food crops may be beneficial. It ought to improve efficiency of growing these crops just as it has improved efficiency of growing food crops. However it's been observed that genetic material from these engineered crops has a way of migrating from the intended plants to other nearby plants. The pollenation process happens regardless of laws or contracts because the plants don't know a thing about any legal the farmer has signed.

The article makes it clear that Targeted Growth is requiring participating farmers to sign a license agreement that they sell their crops to Green Earth Fuels. "These farmers, in turn, will sell their output to Green Earth. Green Earth has a 90 million-gallon-a-year plant in Houston and has plans to build similar plants in the Northeastern U.S. and California....By controlling the quality and supplies of its feedstocks, Sustainable Oil, ideally, will have a more predictable and lower cost of operation. Rising prices of soybean and other agricultural oils have been cutting into the profits of biodiesel refiners."

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