[ASC-media] CSIRO: Boost for 'green plastics' from plants

Rebecca.Eveleigh at csiro.au Rebecca.Eveleigh at csiro.au
Mon Apr 28 06:13:45 CEST 2008

28 April 2008

Ref 08/56

Boost for 'green plastics' from plants

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 CSIRO/Grains Research and
Development Corporation Crop Biofactories Initiative (CBI) have achieved
a major advance by accumulating 30 per cent of an unusual fatty acid
(UFA) in the model plant, Arabidopsis. 

UFAs are usually sourced from petrochemicals to produce plastics, paints
and cosmetics. CBI is developing new technologies for making a range of
UFAs in oilseeds, to provide Australia with a head start in the emerging

"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

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.

The team will announce the successful completion of the first stage of
the CBI on 28 April during the Fifth Annual World Congress on Industrial
Biotechnology & Bioprocessing (WCIBB), being held in Chicago, Illinois,
from 27-30 April 2008.

The team's selection of safflower as the target crop will also be
"Safflower is an ideal plant for industrial production for Australia,"
Dr Green says. "It is hardy and easy to grow, widely adapted to
Australian production regions and easily isolated from food production

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

The project focuses on three key areas; Industrial Oils, Complex
Monomers and Protein Biopolymers. CBI project leaders will present the
latest research findings in each of these three areas at the WCIBB in
Chicago which will showcase innovations in the convergence of
biotechnology, chemistry and agriculture. 

Image available at:

Further Information:

Dr Allan Green, CSIRO Plant Industry
0400 497 540; allan.green at csiro.au

Visit the Crop Biofactories Initiative website at:

Visit the WCIBB's website at:	

Media Assistance:
Julie Carter, CSIRO Entomology
02 6246 4040; 0439 033 011;
Julie.Carter at csiro.au
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Beck Eveleigh
Media Assistant
CSIRO Media Liaison
6276 6451
0409 395 010

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