Could GMO Dandelions Replace Rubber Trees?
Photo by Sara Björk via Flickr CC
Last year we talked about how scientists are looking for ways to make dandelions replace rubber trees as a source of latex. The up side is that latex from dandelions has fewer impurities than latex gathered from rubber trees, which means the material is better for things like medical gloves and even tires. However, in order to ramp up production of the raw material and make it a cheaper source than rubber trees, scientists have come up with a genetically modified flower that they've engineered to, essentially, bleed profusely. Discovery News reports that scientists were able to engineer a virus that interrupts the genetic sequence that makes a dandelion stop leaking the sticky white substance gathered for latex, such that infected dandelions excrete as much as five times more raw material.
Ravlin's own research, in association with tire maker Bridgestone and with a grant from the state of Ohio, has focused on finding strains of dandelions that produce larger amounts of rubber in latex, a work he describes as "incremental." If economically feasible, the work of both Ravlin and Prufer could quickly become exponential.
There are a lot of questions to consider about mass producing dandelions, from how they'll be raised to what unintended consequences might exist for the virus created to alter the genetic make-up of the flowers. More details can be found at Discovery News.