Thursday, February 4, 2016

[biofuelwatch] Beware False Promises: Algal Oils and Other Products of Synthetic Biology Aren’t About to Save the Orangutan…. But Carry Serious New Risks





Biofuelwatch and Friends of the Earth US have published a joint briefing:

Beware False Promises: Algal Oils and Other Products of Synthetic Biology Aren't About to Save the Orangutan…. But Carry Serious New Risks, "http://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/2016/synbio-and-palmoil-briefing/

Claims that oils made by genetically engineered algae or yeasts might replace palmoil and thereby save the orangutan have been reported in a large number of media articles as well as on social media.  Those originate mainly from two sources:


+ Solazyme, a California-based company which used to describe itself a "leader in algal synthetic biology" (until they became the focus of civil society protests against Ecover and Method using their algal oil in cleaning products and decided to call what they were doing 'traditional genetic engineering' instead).  Solazyme use genetically engineered algae grown on sugar (mostly from sugar cane plantations in Brazil) to produce algal oils.  Whilst the risks of unintentional release are high - and the potential consequences of such a release unassessed and unknown - Solazyme can't even product enough algal oil to break even financially.  Having dropped plans for producing large volumes for biofuels in favour of small quantities of highly expensive algal oils, mainly for anti-ageing skin care products, and running up higher and higher deficits, hasn't stopped them from claiming that they can potentially replace enough palm oil to save orangutans.


+ Academics at the universities of Bath and York who've managed to get a £4.4m grant for developing oils from yeasts with the help of synthetic biology.  The fact that those are only early stage experiments an that so far they can only produce a few grams of oil every year hasn't stopped them from making claims about the potential to replace palm oil to the media - claims which obviously helped them to get government funding.





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Posted by: almuth@ernsting.wanadoo.co.uk



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Biofuels are a wide range of fuels which are in some way derived from biomass.

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