Metabolix is moving forward with its plans to produce bioengineered polymers from crops other than corn. The Massachusetts company announced it has completed a field trial of tobacco, genetically engineered to “express” polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) biobased polymers. In the Metabloix plan, crops such as switchgrass are bioengineered to create a polymer that grows within the plants’ molecular structure.
Tobacco will not be one of those plants when, and if, the idea goes commercial. “Tobacco was one of the crops they were working with in the lab and they were able to gain field trials,” says a company spokesperson. “They saw it as an opportunity to use it as a test crop to lay the groundwork for planning and permitting activities for field trials in bioengineered, non-food oilseed and biomass crops (such as switchgrass and sugarcane) producing PHA.”