Belgium and Netherlands may grow GM poplars for biofuels

Belgium and the Netherlands may find themselves in a race to grow the first GM poplars for biofuels.

According to a story in Nature Biotechnology and quoted by Biofuel Watch in an email, the Dutch Government may approve the planting of poplars for biofuel. If you can get to a library, you can see the article in  Nature Biotechnology volume 27 number 2 February 2009 p. 107. Alternatively it will cost you $32 to view the article on line.

The gist is that…

Researchers at the Ghent, Belgium-based Flanders Institute of Biotechnology (VIB) have developed transgenic poplars deficient in the enzyme cinnamoyl-CoA reductase. This reduces the lignin content making them more suitable for bioethanol production, although so far their benefits have only been demonstrated in the lab.

A final decision from the Dutch government is due in spring 2009.

Information extracted by Hayley Birch. Well done Hayley.

Today the Dutch language, but Belgian, says The VIB has gained approval in Flanders, Belgium.  So could the race be on?

The VIB website has some interesting stuff… The process it went through to get permission to grow the plants in Belgium, for instance. The fact that VIB has been working on GM poplars for about 10 years…

It is also worth making a note of cinnamoyl-CoA reductase. Remember it. I’m going to guess that it is one of the key components in work by seed/trait companies who are hoping to develop easier-to ferment non-food biofuels. There’s quite a bit of interest in cinnamoyl-CoA reductase.  

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2 Responses to Belgium and Netherlands may grow GM poplars for biofuels

  1. Pradeep 25 February, 2009 at 7:46 pm #

    Any word on how lignin-deficient these poplars would be? Lignin plays a key role in strengthening wood cells in trees , what would happen if trees produce less lignin?

  2. Simon Robinson 26 February, 2009 at 9:16 am #

    I guess lower in lignin rather than low in lignin might be better. I’m not sure that you could take too much lignin out without turning the trees into lumps of squelchy green goo :-( ). There’s been some work on tobacco plants which shows that too little lignin leads to malformed plants. It was published in The Plant Journal.

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