C16 Biosciences creates an alternative for palm oil using microbes

A team of researchers led by Shara Ticku, the co-founder and CEO of C16 Biosciences, have managed to create an alternative to natural palm oil. The team of C16 Biosciences has managed to create this artificial palm oil using yeast, which is a bacterium that is commonly used during various bakery-related activities.  Shara Ticku, the leader of this research, said that the idea of creating artificial palm oil came to her mind when she was at the Singapore International Airport. Back in 2013, Shara Ticku visited Singapore because of some work. But as she reached the country, she was instructed to wear a face mask to protect herself from harmful air which was caused by the burning forests in Indonesia. 

Indonesia is one of the largest producers of palm oil. The country uses a significant part of its land to cultivate palm trees which generate palm oil. To increase the production of palm oil, the country regularly shreds down its rainforest in an attempt to create more farmland for palm trees. To clear the land rapidly, the farmers and locals in Indonesia, often burn the rainforests. The smoke generated by lighting up the rainforest then travels to Singapore, creating breathing problems for them. This was the reason that when Shara Ticku arrived in Singapore, she was instructed to wear a face mask. Due to this experience, she was driven to create an alternative to palm oil which will save acres of rainforests and will also help the environment in one of the best ways possible. As of 2023, C16 Biosciences, which was co-founded by Shara Ticku, has released a commercial alternative to palm oil, which is created completely using Yeast, one type of bacteria that is common in the bakery industry. 

C16 Biosciences has named its artificial palm oil alternative Palmless. Using Palmless, the company is planning on completely replacing the palm oil that is used almost in every industry. Palm oil is obtained from palm trees which grow extensively in Asian countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, and some parts of the Americas. It is the most produced vegetable oil in the world, having 40% of the market share vegetable oil market. In almost every product, palm oil serves some purpose. In shampoos, cosmetics, processed food, and many other products, palm oil is used in some quantities. It is also used as fuel in many places, including automobiles. One of the main reasons behind the popularity of palm oil is its characteristics such as tasteless, odorless, smooth texture, or its ability to not affect the taste or odor of the final product. 

But this popularity has acted against the rainforest in Indonesia and Malaysia as the farmers and locals often use fire to clear the forest land. Because of this, a larger portion of forests in these countries is destroyed every year, which also destroys the biodiversity in these forests. Besides being a blow to plant life, setting a forest on fire also creates breathing difficulties for the people, putting them at risk of chronic respiratory diseases. Although these practices have been criticized several times by regulatory bodies, they are still going on extensively. This alternative created for natural palm oil has created a hope for preventing this destruction of forest land and thus, helping the natural diversity to thrive in these Asian countries.