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.