GMO algae—environmentally-friendly alternative to palm oil—runs into resistance

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Petri dishes of algae produced using synthetic biology.

When green cleaning company Ecover announced the launch of a new laundry liquid containing an oil made from algae, as an alternative to the palm oil used in most detergents, it wasn’t prepared for the backlash.

The problem? The algae producing the oil were genetically modified.

The algae that the lab is working on have not been genetically modified, and “it naturally makes a lot of oil” says [Kourosh Salehi-Ashtiani, associate professor of biology at New York University in Abu Dhabi]. To use it on an industrial scale, he says, genetic screening – testing algae to identify those strains that are most productive – might be needed.

As for cost, no figures are available at this stage, he adds, but this will depend on growing location. He acknowledges palm oil is cheap but “cheap isn’t necessarily good, and people who are informed don’t necessarily go for cheap”.

It is early days for the project. The lab is only growing the algae “one litre at a time, max – and usually it’s not even that,” he says. “It’s got potential, absolutely yes, can I say that for sure it will be successful? You have to do the work to find out.”

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis. Read full, original post: From algae to yeast: the quest to find an alternative to palm oil

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