Thursday, December 04, 2008

Gene Stacks Instead of Smoke Stacks

Chicago based Chromatin -- an agricultural genetics company -- is raising funds to develop radical new energy crops through extreme genetic modification. Chromatin's genetic methods utilise a "mini-chromosome" technique that introduces multiple genes into a plant simultaneously. Such "gene stack" technology allows for a more radical transformation of the plant genome and characteristics.
Chromatin, which gets its name from the substance in the nucleus of a cell that condenses to form chromosomes during cell division, initially developed its “mini-chromosome” technology to enable quick improvement of crops and feedstocks for the agriculture industry. With this fresh round of funding, Chromatin said it plans to team up with companies in the biofuel industry to provide distribution channels for its genetic products, but has yet to name any potential partners for the move.

The company was founded in 2000 based on technology developed at the University of Chicago. Chromatin said its mini-chromosome technology makes it possible to introduce multiple genes, or gene stacks, simultaneously into any plant cell, with applications in crops such as corn and soybeans. The company plans to develop feedstocks with the gene stacks needed to boost yields and cut the costs of producing fermentable sugars for the burgeoning cellulosic ethanol industry.

Chromatin hasn’t said which properties it’s looking to enhance in biofuel feedstocks, but for its agricultural products the company said its technology could lead to crops with properties such as resistance to disease, greater salt and drought tolerance, and more nutritional value. The company also said its mini-chromosome process could cut the time it takes to to get those new crop traits to market by half and increase crop yields by 25 percent. _Bioenergy
Chromatin is working with Monsanto to achieve many of its biofuel crop goals.

It is easy to see that by increasing salt and drought tolerance, the amount of viable land available worldwide could easily be multiplied by an order of magnitude -- thus destroying the worth of the calculations of many biofuels naysayers.

Another genetic transformation that would have an extreme impact on the future of biofuels, is the ability to induce nitrogen fixation capability in plants -- doing away with the need to add nitrogenous fertilisers.

Biotech, Nanotech, Artificial Intelligence, Advanced Robotics, Advanced Communications and Networking . . . The convergence of these technologies will transform life as we know it, and do away with many of the limitations human societies currently chafe under.

Unfortunately, humans themselves have not changed since the days of hunter gatherer tribal warfare for resources. A psychology based upon scarcity. It is not certain that human psychology is capable of changing, on the whole.

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