When doing the initial research for our synthetic alternative to palm oil components, we quickly came across lots of information regarding the current palm oil industry. It soon became apparent that the economies of some countries, for example Indonesia and Malaysia, depend almost entirely upon the current methods of palm oil production. Therefore we compiled a detailed impact analysis report for synthetic palm oil, which can be found by clicking on the button to the right.

An Economist's Point Of View

A recurring theme throughout our work into human practices has been the idea that diverse expertise will be an essential contributing factor in the progression of Synthetic Biology from an emerging industry to what could be potentially the next big industrial revolution. (This has been discussed in detail in our essay ‘Public Attitudes To Science and the Knowledge Deficit Assumption: How To Avoid A Crisis Of Confidence’)

With this in mind, the Manchester iGEM team has sought the opinion of a series of experts, from environmental campaigners to biotech industry leaders. However, perhaps none of these have been so thought-provoking as the ideas of our team economist, whose unique insight has made us explore our project in a whole new light.

Following, we outline the key problems associated with introducing a synthetic, potentially more economical, route to producing the main palm oil components, and discuss the impact putting this new product on the market would have on the economies of countries reliant on current palm oil cultivation methods.

Whilst we analyse the impact a synthetic palm oil would have on a country like Indonesia's economy here, the principles and scenarios presented could apply to any product derived through synthetic biology where a natural alternative already exists.

Photo © Vincent Chow*