31 Oct 2008

Biotech expert says future still fine for Coconut oil

Coconut oil has become a victim of biotechnology advances in the United States, with researchers succeeding in increasing the lauric acid of rapeseed or canola oil from zero to 60 percent.

This, Dr. Calixto M. Protacio says in an advance copy of an article to be published soon, was made possible through the use of recombinant di-ribonucleic acid (DNA) technology.

"Biotechnology has turned out to be double edged sword, with success in another crop turning out to be detrimental to the market of coconut oil," Protacio said.

The success may have spelled a temporary setback to coconut oil producers and the Philippine Coconut Authority under Administrator Oscar Garin, but it does not reduce the importance of coconut oil as a major product of the country.

"Why should we care about this development? Because the only previous significant source of lauric acid was coconut oil. This means that coconut oil may be substituted by the cheaper and more available canola oil," Protacio added.

"Fortunately, lauric acid content is not the only consideration. Coconut oil also contains many medium chain fatty acids that cannot be found in other vegetable oils, thus, it still maintains its competitive advantage," he said.

To beat the competition at their own game, at least two laboratories at the University of the Philippines at Los Banos "are busy in re-engineering the coconut so that it will also increase its lauric acid content."

"They have isolated and cloned the genes responsible for lauric acid accumulation," he said.

This initial accomplishment is a profitable step for local companies that can mass produce coconut oil with higher lauric acid content than canola oil.

"Unfortunately, there remains a formidable stumbling block; coconut lacks a reliable, reproducible regeneration system. While it is possible to transfer improved genes to coconut cells, the transformed cells still cannot be reproducibly regenerated into whole plants at this time," Protacio said.

He said research is ongoing to develop this regeneration system. "Some coconut palms have actually been regenerated through tissue culture but the method remains to be perfected," Protacio said. - GMANews.TV

No comments:

Biotech Career | Pharmacy Career | Biotech Jobs | Chemistry Career | Jobs India