Calgene Inc. believes that if it can convince the U.S. Department ofAgriculture (USDA) of the safety of its genetically engineered lauratecanola, the Davis, Calif.-company can help reduce U.S. imports oflauric oil and make a lot of money at the same time.The company announced Monday that it has applied to the USDA forapproval of its genetically engineered laurate canola. Calgene contendsthat its data support its claim that laurate canola poses no risk to plantpests or the environment, and therefore need not be regulated. TheUSDA has 180 days from acceptance of the submittal to complete itsreview and issue a final determination of non-regulated status.Conventional canola does not contain laurate, a fatty acidcommercially available only from coconut and palm kernel oils,Calgene said. Company scientists genetically engineered the canolaplant with a thioesterase gene from the bay plant and produced canolawith more than 40 percent laurate, which the company has tested infield trials for three years.The U.S. imported more than 1.2 billion pounds of lauric oils in 1992_ primarily for products such as soap and detergent _ valued atmore than $350 million, Calgene said."The oils business is going to be huge," Roger Salquist, chairman andchief executive officer of Calgene, told BioWorld. "An acre willproduce about a ton of seed and 1,000 pounds of oil. We expect this togrow fairly rapidly. I definitely think we will do something in excessof 200 million pounds per year."Andrew Baum, president of Calgene's Oils Division, told BioWorldthat Calgene will control the marketing and use a combination of itsown people and third parties on the growing side, but the company hasno plan to get in the crushing or grain-handling business.Salquist said he anticipates little trouble getting approval from theUSDA.

-- Jim Shrine

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