Biotech seeks to ease reliance on corn
By PAUL ELIAS,
AP Biotechnology Writer
The ethanol craze is putting the squeeze on corn supplies and causing food prices to rise. Mexicans took to the streets last year to protest increased tortilla prices. The cost of chicken and beef in the United States ticked up because feed is more expensive. That's where biotechnology comes in.
Scientists are engineering microscopic bugs to extract fuel from a variety of non-corn sources, including the human urinary tract, a Russian fungus and the plant responsible for tequila.
The quest for alternative energy is more complicated than just finding a replacement for petroleum. Scientists and a growing number of biotechnology companies are attempting to remove corn from the ethanol equation because it has created huge demand for the global food staple.
"There is enormous growth potential" for alternative fuels, said McKinsey & Co analyst Jens Riese. "But we need to be smarter than just building the next corn ethanol plant."