Genetic Engineering Methods to Overcome Toxicity Challenges in Castor Industry

The toxicity of castor, in the form of ricin, is one of the key challenges that is slowing the adoption of castor as a crop in some countries, especially in the developed parts.

Toxicity challenges in castor industry can be overcome through genetic engineering.

An example of this is the Genetic Engineering of Lesquerella fendleri for castor oil production.

  • Seed oil of Lesquerella fendleri (Lf) contains a valuable hydroxy fatty acid (HFA), lesquerolic acid (20:1OH).
  • Lf does not have biological toxic compounds, thus its oil represents an alternative source of HFA. Lesquerolic acid is derived by a 2 carbon elongation of 18:1OH.
  • By suppressing the elongation step through genetic engineering, it is possible to generate a new Lf crop that could produce 18:1OH.

Novo Synthetix, USA has followed the genetic engineering technique in castor such that it no longer produces ricin. No new DNA is introduced, mainly tweaking of genes.

US Based Start-up Working On Non-toxic Castor Plant

Nova Synthetix, an agricultural biotechnology start-up, based at US,is looking to bring to market a castor-oil plant variety that does not contain a toxin. The company is commercializing a non-toxic castor plant that produces a unique fatty acid in its seed oil which will be used as a high-value chemical feedstock. They are contracting with growers and developing downstream markets for their castor product.

Nova Synthetix, has recently received a $50,000 grant from a private, US based non-profit corporation, named North Carolina Biotechnology Center.

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