“Genetically Engineered Yeast” to Help Thai Ethanol Industries Cut Costs: Confirm Academics

Thailand Institute of Scientific and Technological Research (TISTR) has lately confirmed, following recent research works, that use of genetically engineered yeast to ferment some agricultural raw materials, particularly cassava and molasses , could empower production, reduce capital costs and promote abilities and capacities on benefiting microbes. Doing so will add more values to Thailand’s ethanol industries, promote the BCG economies, mobilize local economic conditions towards the future, apart from encouraging public sectors to support measures on biologically-based safety control.

Following the seminar for the project to explore possibilities on using genetically engineered yeast in ethanol industries funded by the Energy Conservation and Promotion Fund Office, the said yeast can empower ethanol production and reduce its capital costs in terms of enzyme use to around 25% or 1.18 Thai Baht per 1 liter of ethanol. Also, a test on biological safety proved that no mutation occurred, but, in case of ethanol production industries, measures on control and supervision of using genetically engineered microbes is required, prioritizing biological safety in particular.

ดร.ชุติมา เอี่ยมโชติชวลิต ผู้ว่าการ วว.
ดร.พงศธร ประภักรางกูล ผู้อำนวยการศูนย์ความหลากหลายทางชีวภาพ วว.

The Governor of TISTR Chutima Eamchotchavalit, Ph. D., explained that the organization had been funded by the ECPFO for over 5 years to conduct research and technological development to increase ethanol products in terms of biotechnology and production procedures done and tested in a lab and at the semi-industrial level. The activities were a part of a project to increase ethanol products from fresh cassava/tapioca (2016) and a program to promote increasing ethanol products from molasses (2018) as well as the latest project to explore possibilities of using genetically engineered yeast for ethanol industries.

According to its research works, the TISTR was able to select the MD1 breed for cassava raw materials which could produce the glucoamylase enzyme to produce ethanol at high concentration. It can help reduce capital costs on production in terms of enzyme use. Besides, the GY1 breed for molasses is better than industrial yeast in ethanol production in case of high concentration of initial molasses. However, no mutation took place after testing on effects of biological safety in using genetically engineered yeast.

The Director of the Biodiversity Research Center to the TISTR Pongsathon Phapagrangkul, Ph. D., said that, in terms of cassava raw materials, the TISTR did research by using MGT 1/1 breed provided by the TISTR’s microbe center. It was found that the MD1 could produce the glucoamylase better than the MGT 1/1. In production of highly concentrated ethanol, capital costs were reduced to around 0.45 Thai Baht per 1 kilogram of cassava digestion. This is equivalent to 1.18 Thai Baht of enzyme per 1 liter of ethanol production without affecting production capacities. Such results resemble ethanol production by using molasses.

The genetically engineered yeast GY1 can produce ethanol better than the SC-90 one for production using high concentration of initial molasses. The test of biological safety of using natural and genetically engineered yeasts to produce ethanol under the reverse mutagenicity (Aka AMEs test) found that no mutation existed in both yeasts.

To conclude, the project’s results indicated that high concentration of molasses and cassava could empower ethanol production and significantly reduce capital costs. Nevertheless, if Thailand needs to develop ethanol production industries, measures to control and supervise use of genetically engineered microbes are indispensable by abiding the biological safety standards as priority.

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