Chemical Industry Rushes Toward Greener Pastures

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Science  23 Oct 1998:
Vol. 282, Issue 5389, pp. 608-610
DOI: 10.1126/science.282.5389.608

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To cash in on the current biotech boom, big chemical firms are trading in their reactors and refineries for research labs and test plots. But these high-stakes bets on the future profitability of the life sciences could be risky: Although several transgenic crops are already doing well on the market, future products will likely involve more complex genetic manipulation whose effectiveness is not yet demonstrated. And attempts to use plants as biological "factories" for other chemicals must get around problems of low yield and difficult extraction processes. Then there is the problem of public opposition to genetically modified crops, which is particularly strong in Europe.