There’s an ugly truth to beauty products and the foods we eat: Many are made with palm oil, responsible for rapid deforestation of some of the world’s most biodiverse forests, destroying the habitat of endangered species like the pygmy elephant and Sumatran rhino.
But now the biotech industry says it has a solution – a synthetic alternative that doesn’t involve burning down or clearing any rainforest.
Shara Ticku, founder of C16 Biosciences, a biotech firm pioneering a synthetic alternative, said, “Over the last 30 years, 50% of palm oil plantation growth has come at the hands of deforestation of tropical forest and peatland. That is really the core of the problem we’re trying to solve…It’s a yeast, we feed it sugars, then the yeast grows and they’re able to produce large amounts of oil within their cells, and we have to squeeze out that oil or extract it.”
Research is still in pre-commercial stage, but there’s been high-profile interest in its potential.