No messing with genes to produce dandelion rubber
ERJ staff report (BC)
Enschede, Netherlands – Dutch biotech firm KeyGene has joined tire manufacturer Apollo Vredestein in a collaborative effort to develop dandelion latex. The team estimates that commercial dandelion tires could be on the market five years from now.
"Although first impressions look very promising," according to a company statement, "the tires with the alternative natural rubbers will first undergo extensive testing over the coming months before being taken into production."
The common dandelion’s roots are too small to be viable for commercial production, so KeyGene is developing a Russian/common dandelion cross by DNA profiling. This should reinforce the root stock and increase latex levels.
The process involves analysing different specimens in a greenhouse setting, looking for mutations, then isolating the genetic material that improves yield and tolerance to environmental stresses and disease.
The firm has been involved in cross breeding the Russian dandelion with the common dandelion, using DNA profiling technologies. KeyGene emphasises that its method represents a quicker and more economical way of crop improvement than genetic modification.
The company's CEO, Arjen Van Tunen, said: "We don't introduce a gene from a different species into our crops." He pointed out that the company works "without crossing the species barriers." The team works with the DNA in the species itself, mimicing normal evolution by natural selection.