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Environmental Concerns of Modifying Algae for Biofuel Reviewed

Published on: 11/19/2012

As researchers around the world work on better genetic modifications to algae that step up biofuel production, NOAA scientists recentlyconsidered some ecological, economic and health ramifications if these organisms made it into the wild.

In their paper, the investigators from the National Centers for Coastal Ocean science and partners predictthat most genetic traits for enhanced fuel yield would not be advantageous in nature, resulting in low–but not zero–ecological risk. To be on the safe side, they recommend that any modified algae should be securely contained and given further genetic changes so they would die if they got into a natural waterway. Of course, these assertions will require verification through rigorous monitoring and experiments.

Genetically enhanced algae could play a major part in reducing our need for oil and gas, but those enhancements should not risk overrunning our oceans with altered organisms.

The NCCOS researcher worked with colleagues from Oklahoma State University, theDonald Danforth Plant Science Center, the Ecological Society of America, theLos Alamos National Laboratory, the New Mexico Consortium, and Phycal, Inc.

This paper will appear in this month’s issue of Algal Research.

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