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Synthetic palm oil could significantly reduce deforestation

New York-based biotech lab, C16 Biosciences, thinks it may have found a solution to replacing palm oil with a synthetic alternative.

New York-based biotech lab, C16 Biosciences, thinks it may have found a solution to replacing palm oil with a synthetic alternative. 

New York-based biotech lab has come up with a synthetic material made by using genetically-engineered microbes to convert food waste and industrial by-products. The process is very similar to fermenting beer with the oil as a byproduct of fermentation and the final product is chemically very similar to natural palm oil.

Globally, 82 million US tons of palm oil are consumed annually and is responsible for some of the most destructive deforestation in rainforests around the world.

Researcher Shara Ticku from C16 Biosciences told BBC, “We believe that with our technology platform, at a scale of hundreds of thousands of kilograms annually, we will be cost-competitive with palm oil. If we can get enough people to change then there is no longer any justified reason for burning forest to produce this vegetable oil, and that is a success.”

C16 Biosciences is actively testing their product and is already exploring partnerships with food wholesalers, like Germany-based Metro Group, to market the oil. The team of researchers is also highly optimistic about using the material in the near future in non-food products like dishwashing liquid. The biggest challenge however is making the synthetic product as affordable as natural palm oil. 

Picture by: Pascal Maitre

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